Impact BBDO Dubai is Communicate’s Agency of the Year for 2022. We sat with Dani Richa, Chairman, and CEO for the Middle East, Africa, and Pakistan, to discuss his agency’s best campaigns and the process that goes on behind creating award-winning work.
Impact BBDO Dubai has been building its hall of fame since early this year, but the Grand Prix win for An-Nahar Newspaper’s “The Elections Edition” at the 2022 Cannes Lions was the peak of many, many celebrations. A key part of this success, Dani Richa, Chairman and CEO for the Middle East, Africa, and Pakistan, has been leading the agency for over 35 years. Under his guidance, Impact BBDO had already given the Middle East its very first Grand Prix at Cannes in 2019.
Having occupied many creative roles in his career, Richa has always had one constant: his focus on empowering his teams on their journey of showcasing creativity and effectiveness on a global scale.Communicate sat down with him to further discuss the agency’s winning streak and the process that goes on behind building award-winning work.
Impact BBDO Dubai’s work has been recognized all over the world this year. What do you think made these campaigns special?
Year after year, our work in the region has been very well received by international jurors all around the world. I must say that there has been a growing interest in the work but also in the region and [its] culture. Through our work, we’re shedding light on the richness, the issues, the complexities, and even the tension points of the region. With that in mind, the work we are doing is anchored in strong consumer insights and shaped by purpose so that it creates positive social change – pieces such as “Despair No More” with TENA, where we called on Arab women to change the narrative; and the “Social Distancing Prayer Mat” with Dettol to allow prayer to take place safely during the pandemic. Not only does it resonate with the people of the region, but with jurors everywhere. When there’s a lot of authenticity in the work, it really makes a difference.
Is there a snowball effect when a campaign starts gaining momentum, winning more and more awards?
Good work could do well at some shows but not at others. But great work travels the world and cuts across categories – it gains recognition and fame. That is also true for the brands that support the work. Take An-Nahar for example; after it won its second Cannes Lions Grand Prix and tens of awards over the years, now juries look forward to it with anticipation, wondering what they’re going to do next. So yes, it’s a snowball effect that rolls over to the coming years too.
What part does the nature of your relationship with the client play in creating award-winning work?
I always say it is as difficult to recognize and approve great work as it is to come up it. We are blessed with clients that have an eye for great work but also have the courage to push us and help us deliver. For this, two things are important. One is a real sense of partnership, where the agency and client’s agendas are aligned. And two, a partnership built on trust. Doing things that have never been done before comes with a bit of risk and a lot of responsibilities. Stepping into uncharted territories needs a leap of faith. That can never happen without trust. I cannot let this opportunity pass without saying that it’s a pity that more clients are working on a project basis as opposed to long-term loyalty with their agencies, as trust and partnership are built over time.
How important is it to win awards for an agency today from a business perspective? From a creative perspective?
For us at BBDO, our raison d’etre has always been “The Work. The Work. The Work.” Our relentless focus has always been on creating the best work in the world. If that results in awards, then fantastic. For us, awards are not the end; they are a means to ensure that we continue to be recognized by peers and the industry as the world’s biggest creative boutique. This allows us to continuously raise the bar for ourselves and the region. This reputation of doing world-famous work has allowed us to attract talent from every corner of the globe. In fact, our Dubai office has more than 50 nationalities working together.
This incubation of local, regional, and international talent is resulting in work that is locally relevant and globally famous – [winning] awards such as the Loeries where we picked up 18 trophies in 2022 for pieces such as “The Elections Edition” with An-Nahar, where we halted the print of the newspaper for the first time in its 88 year history, winning two Grand Prix; and “The Wider Web” with Etisalat, where we looked at how overwhelming the Internet can be for autistic people and created a first-of-its-kind web extension that curates the user experience to people who are on the autistic spectrum – that was also awarded a Grand Prix.
Submitting entries to award shows is time and resource-consuming. How does Impact BBDO Dubai organize itself around that?
Of course, award entries take time and effort. It takes a lot of time and resources to build the entry submission and video. It’s a costly exercise. This is why we are extremely selective about what we enter and where we enter it, so as to extract the right returns on our investment. We want to win titles like Agency of the Year on quality, not on quantity. Our numbers speak for themselves. For example, we won Agency and Network of the Year at this year’s Dubai Lynx, with less than half of the entries of our competitors. But when you have great work and the teams believe in it, everyone is happy to passionately put in the extra hours to ensure that the work gets the recognition it deserves, and that talent and hard work are celebrated.
Where do you think the region is headed in terms of setting the bar for creativity and effectiveness? The region is currently in a very good place, and I believe that we can confidently say that we have earned our place on the world global stage as there has been such consistency for agencies from the region winning big at international shows. If you take us for example, we are the top agency in the Middle East and Africa in all the major shows but interestingly, we are also Global Agency of the Year at Mad Stars. This is great for us but also great for the region as other agencies are also doing well. Very importantly, our talent is also being recognized as our people are invited to join juries at shows all around the world – judging and presiding, with our own Ali Rez named the TV/ Cinema and Online Film President at this year’s London International Awards. Clients are also a driving force in this journey as their excitement for the work we create pushes the team ahead and has resulted in us being the most awarded agency in the region on no less than six global stages this year alone, and being the first in the region to win a second Grand Prix at Cannes Lions.
What is your advice to fellow leaders in a similar position who are aiming to build a team and further guide them to curate work that has a notable impact?
I don’t think there’s a secret formula to share. I believe a lot of my peers are doing a great job and giving us the healthy competition we need to keep us on our toes. The region is doing superbly well, and more and more agencies are being celebrated on a global stage. I have no lessons to give, I just have respect for the effort it has taken everyone to get to where we are today.
Do you have a special message for your teams? For Impact BBDO fans?
To my team, I would say thank you. I’m humbled to be surrounded by so many great people. Stay in the region, stay hungry, and stay grounded. Never lose that fire and passion. Remember that every brief from every client is an opportunity for a Grand Prix. And if I or the leadership team ever slows down or loses focus, don’t hesitate to shake us up! To the tens of thousands that are following us on social media, I would say thank you for your support and your kind comments but please feel free to tell us if the work isn’t great! And last but by no means least, this has led us to the prestigious award of being named Communicate’s Agency of the Year 2022, which for us is a fantastic way to end such a rewarding year – and for that, we say thank you!
This article was written for Communicate's latest print issue.