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Opinion and Insight
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Dubai Lynx: There Really Is Nothing Quite Like Meeting Face-to-Face

LBB Editorial, 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Why a talk from Mondelez’s Khurram Siddiqi has Laura Swinton feeling pumped to be out and about with Lynx attendees and the real people of Dubai

Dubai Lynx: There Really Is Nothing Quite Like Meeting Face-to-Face

It’s as true for dating as it is for marketing; sometimes you need to get offline and meet people face-to-face. Put yourself out there and just… talk. But, more importantly, listen too. At Dubai Lynx this week Khurram Siddiqi, Director Innovations & Global Brands, Chocolates, EEMEA at Mondelez, revealed that some of Cadbury’s most successful campaigns of recent years had come about not from ‘big data’ and statistical cleverness but from personal visits he and his team had undertaken in people’s homes.

Of the insights gained at the three day event – of which there were many – Khurram’s observation struck a particularly resonant note. He was speaking at a networking breakfast, hosted by Edelman’s Carol Potter and joined by PepsiCo’s Karim Baraka. During the wide-ranging discussion, Khurram explained that a series of visits with mothers in a Johannesburg township of Alexandria revealed that many mothers shared barely anything about the fathers of their children – lost to the mining trade or illness – and so found their ‘joy’ in their relationships with female friends and kids. A gentle observation that led to the South African singing foetus campaign. And a gentle observation that came from getting out of the office, away from the computer and out into the world.

And this week that’s all I’ve been doing – getting out and about with the crowds of the Lynx and the wider creative community in Dubai. It’s my first time at the festival   and in the city   and by this point in the week, my head is ready to pop from everything I’ve learned about advertising in Dubai and the rest of the MEA region. I’ve chatted about Nigeria and West Africa with Clément Vigné of DDB WECA, pondered the challenges of growing telecoms in Afghanistan with Tonic’s head of strategy Arnaud Verchère and discovered the challenges of advertising Victoria’s Secrets in Saudi Arabia with Lee Hedger at Mr. H. I’ve also caught up with expat Brits, Kiwis, Egyptians and more who have made a home for themselves in the Dubai advertising scene, and learned about their worries (possible new global recession, Syria, unsettled geopolitics, rising rents) as well as the growing creative scene in the city.

I’ve even had time to do a little exploring too. The dhows of Deira, loaded with fruit, spices, Samsung Fridges and Smart TVs ready to set sail for Iran. The neck-aching majesty of the record-breaking Burj Khalifa. The palm frond-covered aviaries in villa courtyards in well-to-do neighbourhoods. The construction workers knocking up Audi showrooms and holiday resorts well after the sun has gone down. It barely scratches the surface, but one thing I am sure of is that there’s a lot more going on in Dubai than air-conditioned malls. Despite the city’s relative youth, there’s so much more happening in terms of creativity, texture and diversity than I had, ignorantly, assumed. There’s an art district, a design district, a street food festival, a growing underground art scene and a hugely popular comic convention. And those Euro creatives who had their reservations before moving here all say it shouldn’t work… but it does.

Just as Khurram put down the spreadsheets and the data report to find insight by simply talking to people, I’ve left the office behind for a bit of on-the-ground research myself. The Middle East is an area that I’ve only ever covered remotely, meeting people from the region in Cannes and other festivals. Coming over and seeing it for myself has been fantastic. I just can’t believe it took me so long.