Philippe Skaff: The Return of a genuine pioneer
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.