At the March 2016 Dubai Lynx International Festival of Creativity, Memac Ogilvy & Mather Doha won seven Lynx awards, including the Grand Prix, the highest level award, never before won by a Qatari agency. The Grand Prix was given in the ‘Print’ category by a panel of international judges who examined hundreds of entries, shortlisting just a fraction for consideration. BQ speaks to Samer Abboud, managing director and Youssef Gadallah, creative director, Memac Ogilvy Qatar, about the importance of such recognition for Qatar’s creative milieux.

Which of your campaigns won Grand Prix awards?

Regionally, Memac Ogilvy was again very successful at the Dubai Lynx Awards. Qatar managed to bring home seven Lynx awards (one Grand Prix, one gold, three silver and one bronze) for the Qatar Islamic Bank seat belt campaign and one bronze for a film created for Tarsheed, the National Programme for Conservation & Energy Effiency. Never before has a campaign in Qatar won a Grand Prix, so it is especially gratifying to be the agency that accomplished this achievement for the market. We hope it is the first domino to fall in a cascade of momentum for unleashing creative energy here.

What impact will the prize have in the market? 

This has not been a market that has been very affected by awards in the past. We hope that this will do a couple of things – 1) increase competition in the market, challenging the industry to raise its sights towards work that is both creative and effective in its concept. 2) demonstrate to the creative community in the region that Qatar is on the map. It is a viable place to come and have a career with clients that will green light strong creative work.

How tough was the competition, how many companies/ads/campaigns participated?

Dubai Lynx is very competitive, each year more so than the last as the advertising industry grows across our region. Two thousand five hundred entries were submitted in 2016 across 16 categories.

What categories was Memac Ogilvy most successful in?

Memac Ogilvy Qatar won its seven awards in Print, Outdoor, Film Craft, Print & Outdoor Craft, and Design categories.

What sets your company’s work apart from the competition’s?

Creative work is subject to personal preference. Some people will like a piece of work while others will not. We believe what makes for unquestionably good creative, therefore, is work that achieves a client’s objectives. David Ogilvy said, “We sell, or else” meaning that if our work isn’t effective we won’t have the client for very long. So Memac Ogilvy focuses a great deal of time and energy into cultivating insights and planning. Our clients entrust us with their brands and with their money, so we owe the utmost care in the campaigns we develop. If we cannot show the impact of the creativity, all of the awards will mean nothing.

What trends do you see in the GCC advertising market?

Budgets continue to shift, from ‘above the line’ advertising to ‘below the line’ and integrated communications. The bottom line hasn’t reduced, it has just followed the eyeballs to digital and social, PR and activation. This is reflective of a global trend that is being felt in Qatar and across the GCC as well.

How does the GCC differ from other markets in terms of advertising?

Paradoxically, radio and television (broadcast) are still strong channels in a market that is increasingly online. We see this shifting as brands rapidly increase their digital and social presence, though the former remain important channels for reaching local audiences and for achieving mass cut-through.

How has Qatar’s advertising landscape evolved through the years and where do you see it going?

We are in the midst of the shift from traditional and channel/message-driven to more conceptual communications. Once the bastion of a few blue chip brands, Qatari companies have seen the benefit of strong brand investment and building relationships with customers and stakeholders rather than engaging in transactional communications.

How challenging it is to advertise to such multicultural audience as Qatar and the broader GCC’s?

The nature of communications is that you have to connect the right message to the right audience. There is nothing particularly unique about the challenges in Qatar or the region, though getting good segmentation and profiles of the audiences requires time and research. One size never fits all, and the GCC region is no different. Many times the differences are overplayed – that locals and expats are different. But there are just as many differences between locals (age, gender, education, etc.) as there are among the rest of the population. So generating strong insights must be based on each audience segment.

What is the common denominator all these different people respond to?

Truth, belonging, safety – these are basic human needs that don’t differ from person to person or nationality to nationality. If a brand or campaign can authentically tap into those emotions and feelings it can be incredibly powerful. You see this in the recent work for Vodafone Qatar – equating the carrier’s all-new network to better connections amongst family, friends and colleagues. It takes a functional benefit and makes it emotional. But you can’t fake it, it has to be authentic to the brand to be effective which is why so much work needs to go into building and cultivating a brand with the consumer.

How does Memac Ogilvy’s creative process work from start to finish?

The creative process starts with a wholly uncreative question, actually. First, you have to understand the client’s business challenge – what do they want to do? The brief must focus on creating change – what type of change do you want? Sell, change behaviour, etc.? This is where planning and research do the important job of ensuring the right brief goes to the creative team. You then create, refine and execute. It’s an iterative process informed by how the campaign performs. Measurement starts early in the process and must continue throughout.

How did the campaign come about? How much of an issue is (not) using the seatbelts?

The idea was based on the insight that seatbelt use would be more embraced if we saw them as part of the fabric of our culture – that’s accomplished visually with the interwoven seatbelts in the key visual. The statistics are clear in terms of what happens when people don’t wear seatbelts and get into traffic accidents. There’s no question
that seat belts save lives.

What is the message behind the ornaments made out of seat belts?

The traditional Arabic pattern made by the seatbelts helps to convey that their use can be consistent with Qatari culture. We hope that the visuals get attention and start a
discussion that leads to more use of seatbelts in the country.


Samer Abboud
Samer Abboud, Managing Director, Memac Ogilvy Qatar, started his career working with big corporate names such as Austrian Airlines, Alcatel and Siemens. After having led Grey Doha in the capacity of Chief Operating Officer, he joined Memac Ogilvy in December 2011, with the responsibility of initiating an office in Qatar and kick starting the new operation in this promising market.
Youssef Gadallah
Youssef Gadallah, creative director, Memac Ogilvy Qatar, is an award-winning creative director whose work has won prizes at a number of festivals, including Cannes, New York Festivals, London International Awards, Most Contagious, the Effie Awards, the Campaign India Digital Crest Awards and Dubai Lynx. Gadallah has produced campaigns for top-tier brands like Vodafone, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Nestle Ice Cream, Kit Kat, HSBC, Nissan, Unilever, Shell and Microsoft.



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