The IAA has launched its 2014 networking sessions with a hotly contested first debate on the value of awards.
The panel of debaters comprised of regional industry leaders, including Carla Hassan, CMO at PepsiCo MEA; Hubert Boulos, CEO Middle East, DDB; and, Mounir Harfouche, CEO, Lowe Middle East & North Africa. Held at the IAA UAE Chapter’s premises in Dubai Media City, the debate was supported by Gulf News and moderated by Lance de Masi, President of the IAA UAE Chapter.
Advertising awards have had both their critics and their advocates since their inception, and the MENA region is no different in having witnessed its share of controversy on the topic. With the MENA Cristal Festival round the corner and the Lynx approaching, the debate was timely and inspired a lively discussion.
Commenting on the choice of subject and the strong viewpoints that were shared during the debate, de Masi said: “I am pleased that the IAA was able to organize this issues-oriented event. The debate was spirited and, I think, did a lot by way of revealing contrasting opinions and sensitivities. If nothing else, it served to highlight what was on people’s minds regarding the value of awards. I was very pleased with the level of audience engagement – always a sign that something substantive has transpired.”
Hassan, who emphasized the necessity for agency and client alignment on business objectives to develop strong creative work, was pleased with the turnout.
Harfouche, who was outspoken about the absence of regional presence on the Dubai Lynx jury, was equally emphatic about the need for more open discussion about matters affecting the industry. Summing up his views on the subject, Harfouche said: “Advertising is the only industry where creativity is used to deliver a very business-driven objective. That’s where it becomes a currency and the best investment a brand can make. Creativity needs a context for its value to be measured otherwise it becomes pure artistic expression, which makes it totally subjective. Clients and agencies need to be aligned on the definition of creativity and that’s how we can improve the outcome of the work. Our industry needs its chance to be respected and recognized. Our people need to be part of the experience including taking part in judging regional awards.”
Boulos agreed with Harfouche, saying: “The absence of Arab jurors at the Dubai Lynx is an absurdity; I feel it is actually insulting to all of us. I can’t imagine something like this happening in France for example; you’d have another revolution and some heads would definitely roll.”
Nicola Gregson, managing director of Ketchum Raad Middle East and Chair at Middle East PR Association (MEPRA), who attended the debate, found that it “evoked much passion in both the panelists, and the audience. As a member of the industry, it’s difficult not to have an opinion. [I believe] the value of winning can be huge – from any point of view; most people are passionate about winning awards, as long as it is on a level playing field. The word that underpinned most of the comments and discussions during the debate was ‘integrity’ – something that every client, agency and judge must operate with. [Only then can we] experience the true value of winning awards.”
The evening saw strong presence from industry professionals and audience engagement was high, with the debate inciting strong opinions and setting the benchmark for the IAA’s upcoming events.