Austyn Al­li­son

Campaign Middle East - - NEWS -

By now, the creative teams at Mul­lenLowe should be com­ing to the end of a 30-day challenge set for them by the Mid­dle East Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Net­work agency’s new ex­ec­u­tive creative di­rec­tor, Breno Cotta (above, left). They will pre­pare proac­tive cam­paigns for ex­ist­ing clients, which Cotta will then grade on a scale from one to 10. Cotta says there are a num­ber of rea­sons this is one of his first moves af­ter join­ing the agency: the challenge and brief will boost cre­ativ­ity; it will give Cotta a chance to see where his de­part­ment is strong and where he needs to im­prove it; and it will start to build a cul­ture of feed­back and re­sponse. It will also give CEO Mounir Har­fouche ma­te­rial to present to the agency’s global coun­cil, which is held ev­ery three months.

Cotta, who ar­rived in June, has a re­mit to make the agency more creative, and Mul­lenLowe has said that un­der his watch it hopes to bring home the re­gion’s first Cannes Lions Grand Prix.

Cotta is the fi­nal piece in the Mul­lenLowe jig­saw, says Matt But­ter­worth, the agency’s man­ag­ing di­rec­tor. The new ECD has come to Dubai af­ter a short stint at Scanad JWT in Kenya. A Brazil­ian by birth, he has worked around the world, in­clud­ing in Spain, Por­tu­gal and Mex­ico, and has already won Lions on two con­ti­nents.

He says the Mid­dle East is the place to win more. “The re­gion is burst­ing,” he says. “It is in an in­ter­nal com­bus­tion phase and if you don’t take ad­van­tage of that right now you’re miss­ing out on some­thing very big. If you’re not one of the first ones to bring that out, you will let some­one else do that. I’m sure we want to be in front of those peo­ple.”

But­ter­worth says the legacy of cam­paigns is what sep­a­rates the great from the good. He il­lus­trates this with the ex­am­ple of TBWA’s Gold-Lion “She Drives” cam­paign for Nis­san, which showed women, anx­ious about so­ci­ety’s re­ac­tion to their learn­ing to drive, dis­cov­er­ing their in­struc­tor will be their fa­ther, hus­band or brother. But­ter­worth de­scribes the cam­paign as “re­ally pow­er­ful”.

“But for me that’s only the start,” he says. “What is the legacy that they are go­ing to leave be­hind? How does that hap­pen within their busi­ness? Are Nis­san now go­ing to make sure they are work­ing to­wards – in 10 years’ time – 50 per cent of their work­force be­ing women? How is that go­ing to be em­bed­ded in? That’s the re­ally in­ter­est­ing bit for me, be­cause that’s the bit that starts to change.”

In the re­gion, both Abu Dhabi and Saudi Ara­bia are work­ing to­wards goals in health, re­form and other ar­eas, to be achieved by 2030. “That’s ac­tu­ally started to change the way we think,” says But­ter­worth. “We are work­ing with clients that are ex­actly like that and are in that mode at the mo­ment. (We are very lucky; I don’t know if all clients are like this.) Be­cause they have this vi­sion now of where they want to go and where they want to take it, it does not make it eas­ier but it gives us more of a chance.”

Mul­lenLowe has been work­ing with its clients to help them trans­form strate­gi­cally, rather than just an­swer­ing creative briefs.

“We have had or­gan­i­sa­tions that have come to us and said we need to change in the next 10 years; how do we do that? What do we do? What is our legacy? How do we do it? Where do we go? What ba­sics do we put in place to get us on to a path that gets us there? What peo­ple do we need?” says But­ter­worth. “That’s not typ­i­cally what a creative agency would do, so we’ve had to bring in data, we’ve had to bring in tools, we’ve had to bring in an­a­lysts, we’ve had to bring in re­searchers to get us to that po­si­tion.”

This means Mul­lenLowe has trans­formed it­self strate­gi­cally as well. But­ter­worth has led the agency for two years, dur­ing which time he has re­struc­tured it, hired new peo­ple and de­vel­oped a sta­ble client base that means it can turn its fo­cus from chas­ing new busi­ness to ser­vic­ing in­cum­bents.

Now the com­po­nent parts are in place for the agency to start en­ter­ing awards shows with pur­pose.

“We can’t ar­ro­gantly say we are go­ing to get some­thing, be­cause it de­pends on the briefs, it de­pends on the na­ture of creative, it de­pends on the judg­ing panel at that par­tic­u­lar time,” says But­ter­worth. “But let’s just say if you want to cre­ate a per­fect dish we have a crack­ing chef, we have fan­tas­tic in­gre­di­ents and we have an amaz­ing restau­rant to serve the food in.”

Cotta is adamant he won’t start cre­at­ing work only to win awards. And cer­tainly not us­ing faux in­no­va­tion, which he calls “fakenol­ogy”. “Legacy is an arch en­emy of fakenol­ogy,” he says. “Fakenol­ogy is some­thing that fades away in a month. It’s worth it for an awards show, pe­riod. What legacy does that give you? That’s the kind of thing we are try­ing to fight against. We don’t want to do some pretty work to show that Saudi Ara­bia or the Emi­rates are now more open to women driv­ing; we want to see how that re­ally leaks into so­ci­ety and gives us a real blue­print of how this is go­ing to be in 10 years’ time.”

So look out for Mul­lenLowe in next year’s awards shows. And look for their work’s legacy in years to come.

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