Thought Leadership

Celebrating Creativity

By: Yiannis Vafeas, Managing Director 

Every year, the MENA Effie awards bring together agencies and clients to honor effective marketing communications across the Middle East and North Africa region. As a jury member this year, I spent a significant amount of time going through submissions related to youth campaigns.

Demographically, culturally and historically very diverse (set against the inaccurate term “Arab world”) the MENA region covers about 322M people in 22 countries that share a common characteristic: almost 70% of the population is under 30 years old. Millennials between the ages of 18 and 34 in the Gulf Countries of Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman, uniquely comprise of the largest generation in history with the strongest purchasing power in the world.

In a crowded marketplace, it’s critical to stand out. I must admit it’s fascinating to see local and international, big and small agencies creating intelligent campaigns. As a judge, I was confounded on what to focus on while reading the entries; theories and insights are important, but there are many layers to consider, more so in a region ripe with cultural sensitivities.

When it comes to Golin MENA, I tend to rule with a high standard of perfection where only a flawless project makes it to the submission stage. And when I say perfect, I’m referring to the three must-haves in a winning Effie case study:

    • A unique insight that makes you stop and think
    • A campaign that makes you stop and think
    • Results that make you stop without thinking

I was asked in one of the industry magazines, what would be the three mistakes to avoid in a submission. After reading the submissions, here’s what I found:

  1. Don’t base the campaign on widely known facts and insights

In almost 25 submissions, many insights were similar and obvious: young people spend a lot of time online. For example, a team could set its work apart with the following insight: only 14% of the content consumed by youth are branded advertisements; the audience is drawn to humorous, genuine content, yet they’re turned off by brands that seem needy. A winning campaign captures young people’s attention by building a platform that is engaging while not being too pushy to sell, leaving the audience to associate fun with the product.

  1. Don’t overestimate the effectiveness of “influencers”

Influencers are some of today’s top marketing tools. Yet, this tactic was highlighted in numerous submissions as something unique or extravagant. With the vast amount of creativity and tools at our disposal, it’s surprising to see this unimaginative approach as the sole strategy towards promotion and brand advocacy. Influence implies advocates of change and it’s imperative to see the influencer as a means to the end goal – not the goal itself.

  1. Don’t determine the success of a campaign only by “sales” 

Effies and awards in our industry take place to celebrate creativity, promote innovative thinking and inspire change. Results must go beyond sales data to highlight the impact the campaign created. In today’s data-driven environment, marketers often become so fixated on numbers that they forget that emotions drive people’s decisions. Reaching target audiences in meaningful ways, easily represented by sentiment on social networks, is a result worth highlighting.

The unique experience of looking through the eyes of other professionals in the region was definitely a great one. While some campaigns stood out, characterized by their unique approach to driving meaningful conversations, I look forward to what lies ahead where more marketers bravely think outside of the box to create stellar campaigns.