The young guns. . .

Creative standards in the Middle East have come under fire, but the shortlisted individuals for the Campaign Awards' young creative of the year award should make critics think again. Richard Abbott meets five people you are likely to hear a lot more about

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By  Richard Abbott Published  March 12, 2006

The young guns . . .|~|Mustafa,-Sabina200.jpg|~|Sabina Mustafa|~|If you want to know what the future of advertising looks like, take a look at these five faces. They were the finalists from the Campaign Awards’ young creative of the year category. And their presence is a welcome boost for the advertising industry in a part of the world that is all to often dismissed for its lack of creative talent. So what does the future of the industry look like? We have four men and one woman; four from India and one from South Africa; three art directors and two copywriters. All five work in Dubai. The winner was 28-year-old Avinash Sampath, a senior copywriter at Saatchi & Saatchi Dubai. He submitted a portfolio of ads that included ‘Lighthouse’, a TV campaign for Crest that showed a lighthouse beam sweeping across a beach. When you hear two voices, it becomes clear that the light is coming from the white teeth of a Crest user. The campaign — which also won gold in the TV campaign of the year category — looks set to be entered for this year’s Cannes Lions. They were the latest addition to an awards cabinet that includes recognition from the UAE Cannes Young Lions and the London International Advertising Awards. “I am really proud of the Crest film,” says Sampath. “The idea started with my ex-art partner Rajesh. The two of us were out drinking somewhere. “We nailed this one down because the brief was so simple and easy to understand, and we could exaggerate the product’s benefits.” Sampath’s other work includes a hard-hitting print ad designed to stop people drinking and driving. It shows an upturned car in negative, juxtaposed with a bar receipt, and the line ‘Every life has a price’. His philosophy for work is refreshingly simple. “Anything you give me is an opportunity for me to do the best I can do. I just want to pick up better work and seek international fame. Why not?” Each of our five creatives has a different way of coming up with their ideas. Sabina Mustafa, a 28-year-old art director at Team Y&R, says that when she gets a brief she simply puts it to one side. “We just mull over it, let it simmer in your brain and then thrash it out. Sometimes ideas come easily and sometimes you have to work hard at it.” Neil Walker-Wells, a 30-year-old senior copywriter at Team Y&R won a silver Campaign Award for his ‘Jock Idol’ radio campaign for Radio One. He is tired of hearing about how radio is the weakest medium for advertising. “So many people here are lazy and they just use the same old formula — crap like ‘we need to do a job so we put that in the announcement’,” he says. “And then they think ‘I’ve done that, that’s my job, now I need to amuse people somehow’ which just ends up irritating people because you have got the same formulaic jokes. It’s dire.” Jock Idol was Radio One’s attempt to encourage amateur DJs and radio enthusiasts to win the chance to host their own show on the radio. The supporting campaign featured comedy executions of a would-be DJ in dreadful attempts to sing along to pop tracks. Walker-Wells says radio is the ideal medium to encourage creativity from young agency employees. “It’s a challenge to get some of the juniors as writers to write something decent and different. That’s the great thing about the radio here, if you do something different it stands out.” He has recently written a radio advert for Virgin Atlantic’s new route from Dubai to London, which he is keeping close to his chest, but rates as one of his best ever pieces of work. Part of the problem with creativity, argues Sampath, is the fact that clients don’t want to produce great ads. The mentality is still about shifting units. “The truth is there is so much shit floating round in advertising,” he says. “Bad briefs that come to you every day that give you zero opportunity to do anything creative.” But Alok Gadkar, a 28-year-old art director at Partnership, disagrees. “I have always been fortunate to work for clients who demand cutting edge creative and are not afraid to put their money on work that pushes the envelope,” he says. Gadkar’s portfolio included work for retailer Shoe Mart, including the ‘Fashion Harvest’ campaign which attempted to break the mould by featuring models in stylised harvesting scenes, along with dozens of pairs of shoes. Anjum Shaikh, an art director at Team Y&R, is the youngest of our quintet at just 25. He refuses to accept the criticisms leveled at the creative community in the Middle East. “This region is growing, big time. All the ad agencies are doing really well and competition is really tight,” he says. “We just have to pull up our socks and try to win some international awards.” Our five young creatives are connected by their desire to win awards —||**||The young guns . . .|~|Sampath,-Avinash-200.jpg|~|Avinash Sampath|~|hey boast a glut of international silverware between them. In the advertising industry, being recognised by your peers is a major motivator — and a sure fire way of ascending the career ladder quickly. Team Y&R’s Mustafa was particularly pleased by the plaudits she received for a campaign to promote the staging of the Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap in Dubai. The image, a stereotypical mouse hole in a skirting board with stage-style red and gold curtains, was a finalist at the New York Festival. “The recognition that it has got has pleased us,” says Mustafa. “At the end of the day we are all working for recognition among our peers. “A lot of work doesn’t see the light of day. So when you see something come to life it’s really nice.” And thoughts are already turning to the next Campaign Awards, with our five creatives earmarking the campaigns that they will be entering. Walker-Wells says: “I’m expecting next year’s competition for the radio award to be a lot stiffer. For me, radio is the hardest working medium and it’s also the easiest and most cost effective way of spending your client’s money. “You need to put your tongue in your cheek and use a bit of energy.” Some of our young creatives want to become creative directors, while others want to branch into other areas of advertising. Some, like Team Y&R’s Shaikh and Mustafa, just want to keep enjoying themselves. “I came here because my brother was here and I wanted to explore a different part of the world,” says Shaikh. “Now I just want to be successful in my industry.” Mustafa says she would rather not have a masterplan. “I have never planned anything,” she says. “I never even planned to get into advertising. I was meant to be a doctor. I want to continue creating work that gets noticed, that makes me happy, and let’s see where it takes me.” Sampath’s two awards are likely to make him a prime candidate for poaching, but Saatchi & Saatchi boss Rob Mitchell says he has “locked him in with golden handcuffs”. Sampath is modest about his prospects. “ I don’t think I am ready yet to be a creative director. I think I am too selfish at this point in life. “It’s not like all briefs allow you to do the kind of work you want to do so it is time to create briefs for yourself. I love advertising, I couldn’t be doing anything else,” he says. Walker-Wells says he wants to be a creative director within five years. Having trained as a fine dining chef and worked in kitchens all over the world, he is now fully committed to a career in advertising. “Being a chef is a really creative thing. You get to work with flavours and colours, but it tends to become a little frustrating — after a while you have to do the same thing day after day,” he says. Partnership’s Gadkar is enjoying the progress he is making at the independent agency, and believes that the growth of Dubai can only be good news for young creatives wanting to make a name for themselves. “People have been saying that Dubai is not the best place to come for advertising,” he says. “But if you look at the kind of work being done here, you can see it is growing.” Advertising is a hard work industry, but it is also one of the most rewarding. And if the work produced by these five individuals is anything to go by, there will be more accolades heading towards the Middle East.||**||

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