Dubai Crafted to be Multicultural: an Interview with Rodrigo Mavu
Posted on 2016 Nov,29

Rodrigo Mavu, regional creative director, UM MENA dared to step out of his comfort zone by abandoning his position at a highly-reputed ad agency in Brazil and has not looked back ever since. What follows is his interpretation of the Emirati ad scene and the merits such a culturally-diverse market has to offer a creative such as himself.


What sets Dubai apart from other countries in the Middle East? 

Dubai advertising is crafted to be multicultural, and it’s done by people that are used to living in a multicultural environment. It brings more creative freedom without all the restrictions that can be found in other countries in this region. 


Are clients becoming more open to challenging ideas?

By nature, advertising is a business service, right? We help brands to get stronger, we build relationship with consumers… But in the end the core idea is to sell products. So sometimes, creatives will always see some resistance from clients when it comes to innovative ideas. But with good understanding of the client’s business and some trust in the agency this is easily conquerable.


What adjectives best describe Dubai’s advertising scene? And what is still needed for greater recognition?


Imagine how many great ads would never see the daylight if the agencies and the clients had played safe? Ads like the iconic '1984' film for Apple Macintosh, for example, can be rejected during a focus group and still be well received by the audience. As much as we try to always be precise like snipers, there’s always a risk of a campaign not reaching the level of recognition that was expected. 

Dubai advertising industry needs to accept the challenge and do more edgy campaigns and clients need to allow creativity with no boundaries. 

Some of the best ads created in the world were built on top of core human behaviour. But of course in each region the spices used to cook a dish are different and that’s what makes it more relevant for a specific local market.

With Dubai being a widely diverse landscape of people and cultures, is there an effort to craft ad campaigns within a certain framework for the widest appeal? 

Some of the best ads created in the world were built on top of core human behaviour. But of course in each region the spices used to cook a dish are different and that’s what makes it more relevant for a specific local market. As Dubai is an evolving environment where the eastern and western cultures are slowly fusing together, I like to think that every piece of communication has a multicultural DNA. Sometimes we see campaigns that are more focused to A or B culture just because a specific product or service has more consumers (or wants to have) amongst this target. If you live in Dubai you are used to receive different cultural stimulus, so it’s a language you will understand if you see in an ad… and sometimes you will engage with it, even if you are not the main target.


What are the greatest challenges facing ad creatives today? 

I would call it the Pizza-Delivery effect. When somebody asks me how much time me and my team need to provide a creative solution for a campaign, I always answer “something between five minutes and one week”. 

It’s impossible to crystalise an idea that answers business needs in a creative way right after the briefing was delivered. Creatives need time to absorb all that information and get the results of that fermentation process. But the briefs usually come with “the client wants to see something tomorrow” note on the footer. And they probably will see something because at the end of the day this is the industry we are in and facing challenges and delivering results is an integral part of our profession.


Are there any trends in Dubai’s advertising scene that you specifically dislike?

Perhaps, the slow acceptance of new technology and concepts, which can be used to enhance client’s brands perceptions and product usage amongst their target audience. But with good client relationships and sharing the right information about new platforms and ideas this is easily surpassed. 


Do you find it professionally rewarding and personally interesting to be located in Dubai?

It’s rewarding professionally because it’s challenging. What I learned after almost 20 years working in the industry is that creativity comes as a solution to a challenging market environment. Will we have a crisis next year and how can we be more effective with our client’s budget? Do we have the budget to compete with our client’s competitor? Great! Then, let’s use media in a clever way (Volvo Hijack is a big example of it, right?). And because Dubai is an evolving market with obstacles, every single piece of a campaign is rewarding.

And from a personal perspective… Well, Dubai is where I met my wife, where my daughter was born and where I made great friends. What more can I say about it?


What made you pick Dubai?

I was working in one of the most creative independent agencies in Brazil (Loducca) when a friend that was living in Dubai asked me if I would like to join their creative team. At that time I didn’t know anything about the industry in the region, but I asked myself “why not?”.
Forcing myself out from the comfort zone was one of the best things I did.