Dubai Lynx: Going for Gold
Posted on 2017 Feb,07  | By Iain Akerman

The Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity returns from 5 to 8 March with a focus on innovation and progressive technologies that are changing the face of the advertising and media industry.


It’s that time of year again. The time when every agency in the region is frantically finalising its Dubai Lynx entries. 

Why? Well, because whichever way you look at it, the Dubai Lynx remains the region’s pre-eminent awards show. It is also the best indicator of how work from the region will perform at global award shows such as Cannes and D&AD.

As Vidya Manmohan, executive creative director at Grey Dubai, says: “Many have come and gone, but the Dubai Lynx is the only one that is still credible on a regional level.”

The question of who has entered the most work, who will win agency or network of the year, and whether caution and sensibility will prevail over extravagance will only be answered in time. So to will any nagging doubts as to whether any agency will make a mockery of the event. Yet, there is no doubt that all will be in attendance.

This year’s festival will reflect the huge focus on innovation and progressive technologies that has taken place in the region, with the speaker line-up examining how these developments will change the way consumers experience brands and ultimately drive business.

Kicking off on 5 March at the Madinat Jumeirah and culminating in the Dubai Lynx Awards Ceremony on 8 March, the Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity arrives with two new award categories – innovation and a new music section for branded content and entertainment. It also has a line-up of 57 international jury members, amongst them Ben Jones, former chief technology officer at AKQA, who will preside as jury president over the first innovation award.

“Creativity has shown time and time again that it is a key element in building brands, attracting and retaining customers and impacting the success of a business even in the face of economic upheaval,” says Terry Savage, chairman of the Dubai Lynx. “With the pace of innovation and technology moving as quickly as it is, the real world is moving ever closer to the virtual reality. These developments drive and are driven by creativity. Bringing a diverse range of speakers to the festival is a means to open up the discussion, share ideas and practices and provide inspiration to the creative industries in the region.”

“For me, innovation is the perfect blend of simplicity, thoughtfulness, naive excitement, timing and the ‘retrospective obvious’,” adds Jones. “It’s often in the new ways we communicate to the fresh business models that are created and quite often this is where the excitement lies and often without huge spend. These pillars shone through many of the entries from different categories at last year’s awards and I’m excited to see what entries come through this year.”

Amongst the speakers will be Eric Salama, chairman and CEO of Kantar, who will discuss the limits and possibilities of using data for creative purposes, and Al Moseley, president and chief creative officer at 180 Amsterdam, who will argue why madness matters. The science of bravery will be discussed by Blue Barracuda’s executive creative director Joao Flores and general manager Phil Adrien, while Good People’s Ali Ali will return with three of his colleagues to discuss the work they wish they’d done.

Meanwhile, the jury presidents who will hold the fate of agency work in their hands include Matt Eastwood, worldwide chief creative officer at J. Walter Thompson, who will preside over the film, print, outdoor, radio, print and outdoor craft and integrated jury, and Fredda Hurwitz, global chief strategy officer at Havas Sports & Entertainment, who will be in charge of the branded content and entertainment category. Other include Gerry Boyle, chief executive at Publicis Media Asia Pacific, who will head up the media jury, and PR president David Brain, president and chief executive at Edelman Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa.

“As brands and corporates have looked to put purpose and engagement at their core, we have seen an incredible growth in PR creative because it is often the best suited to deliver on those things,” says Brain. “In MENA in the past, PR for brands has tended to be about amplification and publicity and whilst those are still valuable assets, the jury and I hope to be looking beyond that sort of work this year. Agencies in the region are making huge progress fast and I am very much looking forward to seeing some of the best creative work in the whole of Lynx turn up in this category this year.”

But how important is the Dubai Lynx? Indeed, how important are awards shows in general? And have they become so ubiquitous that their value has decreased? 

In January last year Amir Kassaei, chief creative officer of DDB Worldwide, wrote that “too many of us in the industry have bought into the idea that winning awards is proof of creative effectiveness, so much so that we’re willing to sacrifice our integrity to get them. And in turn that has lessened the integrity of the awards themselves”. He added: “If we are coming up with social ideas that pretend to solve the world’s biggest problems or help disenfranchised people, but, in fact, are only being done to win an award, we are cynical and perhaps even criminal.”

Kassaei said the industry had lost focus in what really matters and that DDB would be pulling back from awards, although not completely. 

“Awards are important both internally to stimulate our creative talents and also as a way to build a creative reputation and attract new clients,” says Hubert Boulos, CEO for the Middle East at DDB. “As for Amir Kassaei, he never said we should pull out of awards shows. He said focus on a few shows, and most importantly Cannes. He wants us to focus on quality versus spending outrageous amounts of money to top rankings. 

“From a local perspective, we have no pressure at all to buy our way via countless entries to add up points. Basically, we have to focus on few entries of high quality in a very few select numbers of awards shows.”