Grey Dubai’s associate creative director Habiba Gabriel grew up in Egypt, surrounded by her mum and grandparents, which shaped her view of the world. When she decided to embark on a career in marketing and advertising, she began at Qabila Media Productions and most recently before joining Grey, spent time working at Isobar MENA.
Habiba made a name for herself through the campaigns she’s created with Chevrolet, Dove, Durex, McDonald’s and many more brands. She has a strong background in arts and design and studied for a bachelor of fine arts (BFA), focusing on scenography and design from the faculty of fine arts at her university.
Now, she sits down with LBB to share her journey and what’s brought her to this point.
I was raised by my mom and grandparents, and as a result, I see the world differently. I tend to over-love, over-feed, and occasionally over-analyse and this comes across in my creative work and process.
I believe that creativity comes from being raised differently - the weirder or even tougher the upbringing, the better the creativity. As creatives, we have the opportunity every day to bring a bit of fun and humour and although there is suffering in the world, we can always have fun in our minds.
I read that I'm an ambivert [traits of both an introvert and extrovert], but as a child, my dream was to shake hands with everyone alive and live with a family for a while in each country. So I'd say that most days, I'm a MAJOR EXTROVERT! If I had to collect something, it would be people and their stories.
I love routine, but I'd say YES to anything new. I use the word ‘newness’ at least twice a day. When it comes to creative pursuits, I prefer to be inspired by something remote from what I do so that it brings a new dynamic. However, due to my ADHD, I find myself most inspired by my latest hyper fixation.
For me, the best piece of creative work is the one that makes me envious that I didn't come up with myself. Ideas that make a connection or are humorous, or that actually solve a problem for people, are the best in my opinion.
I used to appreciate ideas for big, fun brands more, but now I have more respect for adding pizzazz to more functional brands. I also understand the struggles it takes to get ideas out into the world, and I appreciate the persistence, passion, and lack of hopelessness of the creative minds behind them.
My proudest project was ‘Avuva’, a cold wax hair removal film
for a skincare brand. The idea was built on the contradiction that here in the Middle East, the communication category is all about improving yourself by using certain products but our campaign focused on the idea that your skin has been through everything you’ve been through, and it shows what you love. Whether it's scraped from your rollerblading obsession or ink marks from reminders on your hand, you're alive in your skin. Having a positive and empowering tone for women and young girls is a responsibility I care deeply about, and it gives me a sense of purpose in a field that can often feel like it's just consumerism. Nonetheless, there's still a place to do good.
First, ‘ask for trouble’. I believe no bother equals no brief. There should be a clearly stated problem. Call us brand physicians?
My creative process begins by brainstorming keywords that pop into my mind, like in the movies ‘Beautiful Mind’ or ‘The Hangover’ (to be honest and less pretentious). I write them all down, think about each one, and usually end up scrapping them all. Then, I try to find inspiration in something that didn't come to mind at first, so the idea is fresh and original.
There is no one right way to be creative and come up with ideas. My only advice is to be present in the brief and then let your mind wander naturally. You were hired for a reason, and that's what will work.
My phone memory suffers from my screenshot addiction. My gallery is filled to the digital rim with references, including random snaps like a picture of a colleague's shoelace next to a colourful takeout wrapper. I also use my notes app to jot down random ideas so I won't forget them. I usually type quickly when I get an idea, which is usually when I'm either sleeping or spaced out mid-slow conversation, so I can't always read my notes later. Maybe I need to find a different input format.
When it comes to generating ideas, I prefer that everyone delves into their thinking journey before intersecting for brainstorming or collaborating with others. So there is room for discussion and inspiration. You don’t want to become stuck on what you've already heard.
The creative blocks used to drag me down, but I've learned that being too hard on myself only occupies the voices in my head with negativity instead of generating ideas. I now remind myself that nobody is an eternal rockstar, whether they're creative or not. Slumps happen and will pass. You just caffeinate and pray that it passes before the deadline.
I grew up in Egypt, a country known for its humorous and emotional people, and I believe this has played a significant role in shaping my creative identity and the kind of work I enjoy. As an only child, I often found ways to entertain myself and being alone with my thoughts has also fuelled my creativity.
Being raised in Egypt has also taught me how to cope with stress and chaos without letting it disrupt my system. It may be overwhelming at times, but it never stops me from getting the job done. There is always a positive and negative side to everything, so the jungle is still beautiful.
When it comes to clients, trust is essential. Just as you choose your partner wisely, you should also choose your agency carefully. Know everything about them beforehand and make sure they care about your brand's growth and success. If an agency agrees with everything you say without questioning it, then it may be time to move on. Healthy relationships have fights.
Creative talent is the heart of any agency, and their mental health should be a top priority. Artists are often complex individuals who may require extra care and attention. When creatives are comfortable and healthy, it leads to a better work environment and stronger work overall.
Habiba's portfolio is here