Philippe Skaff: The Re­turn of a gen­uine pioneer

ArabAd - - INTERVIEW -

Philippe Skaff, one of the most ac­claimed cre­ative gu­rus in the Mid­dle East is back with a bang and spe­cial ef­fects. With count­less awards and hav­ing sin­gle­hand­edly raised the bar for the re­gion cre­ativ­ity is in­tro­duc­ing a se­ries of spec­tac­u­lar cre­ative projects that al­ready daz­zled the re­gion. In the midst of crowded, ur­ban Gem­mayzeh, Skaff has cre­ated an apart­ment that is lit­er­ally a green oa­sis. Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly for the author of a book en­ti­tled The Con­crete Re­pub­lic, his town villa blooms with ver­ti­cal gar­dens, both out­door and in­door. Af­ter he greeted Arabad with his trade­mark smile and a pot of Ethiopian cof­fee, we sat down to talk. Philippe, as the founder, cre­ative di­rec­tor and CEO of Grey, you had it all. Yet in 2011, you de­cided to walk away and sold your shares. Wasn’t that dif­fi­cult?

About as dif­fi­cult as de­cid­ing whether or not to breathe. The thing with the ad busi­ness, no mat­ter how you dress it up, you’re never more than a hired hand, do­ing very lit­tle more than help­ing to shift prod­ucts and ser­vices that are of­ten of ques­tion­able value.

Apart from that, as far back as the 90s, I was start­ing to feel the lim­its of tra­di­tional ‘top down’ communications. Cre­ativ­ity in ad­ver­tis­ing be­came a cut and paste and if you can get away with it, a steal-all-you-can busi­ness. Tech­ni­cally agen­cies still re­lied on cre­ativ­ity but in re­al­ity they started to be run by plan­ners and fi­nance peo­ple. I couldn’t take any of this. Since my in­volve­ment in pro­mot­ing the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar, and af­ter I con­ceived and di­rected the cer­e­monies for the Gate Of Africa cel­e­bra­tion in 2009, a gi­ant un­der­tak­ing on a mind bog­gling scale, I was faced with a new re­al­ity. The world had changed. Cre­ativ­ity had shifted ter­ri­to­ries out of the agen­cies’ world and I wanted to be part of that.

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