Vincent Raffray – Creative Director & Partner – Tonic Communications

 Vincent Raffray

Originally working in Advertising in South Africa, when Vincent moved to Dubai he was told that he was committing creative suicide. Vincent spent the next 6 years trying to raise the level of creativity in the Middle East

In May, Tonic won an award at Canne’s Young Lions Competition for its ‘sleep tight’ print ad. Could you tell us a little bit about the ad and how the idea for this ad came about?

Every year young teams from around the UAE battle it out for a chance to represent their country at the Young Lions Competition in Cannes. This year the brief was to come up with a print idea for Helping Hands, a non-profit charity based in Dubai. In this case, the brief was specifically aimed at the work Helping Hands does with regards to the UAE labour camps. The teams have only got a few hours to produce the work and the ads are then judged by the top Creative Directors in the country. The idea the guys came up with plays on the common saying of sleep tight. Often labourers are packed into labour camps with little regard for their wellbeing. Although things have greatly improved in the past few years, it remains a serious issue. As I said, first prize is a trip to the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival where our team competed with about 50 other teams from around the world. Not only does it teach them to work under pressure, but they also learnt a lot from going to the festival and seeing the best ideas the world has to offer.

Could you tell us about Tonic’s experience at Canne’s

Tonic won the regions first Gold Lion a few years back and since then, each year we’ve featured at awards from around the world. But this is the first year that one of our teams has won the young Lions competition in the UAE. Our team represented the UAE at Cannes, but unfortunately they didn’t feature in the top 3. They did however learn a lot by going to the festival and hopefully they can take that knowledge and turn it into some great ideas for our clients.

The advertising market in Dubai is healthy, competitive and growing. On the other hand, there are international standards that the UAE is yet to adopt. In your opinion, what is the biggest barrier the UAE places upon advertising companies?

Every country has its own standards and criteria. Coming from South Africa, renowned for its creativity, we still had to deal with cultural sensitivities. In this part of the world, it’s no different. Most of the work we do is universally relevant anyway. There are so many different cultures living in Dubai, that our ideas need to be simple to transcend these boundaries. And when I say simple, I don’t mean simple as in stupid. We also have offices in Asia and Africa and we all work on various accounts from diverse regions. If you base ideas on human truths, then you have a winning formula. We’re all people at the end of the day. I think with the economic slow-down we’ve had in the past year, clients have been extra cautious with their budgets. Every cent is carefully monitored and the ideas are scrutinized to death. Clients second-guess themselves constantly and it’s very frustrating trying to get good ideas produced. As long as we can keep producing ideas that work, then I’m happy.

Due to the fact that many people in the UAE spend the majority of their time outside, outdoor marketing must be the most effective type of advertising. Agree or disagree ? (How does outdoor traffic compare to online traffic?)

We have more of a mall culture here in the UAE. During the summer, people live in malls and don’t venture outside. TV is still probably the most effective form of marketing in this region followed by press. Outdoor is predominantly used by fast food chains and retailers trying to drive traffic into the malls. Online marketing is still relatively new in the region, but marketing on the social networking sites has become quite popular. The success of a campaign, will also depend on the whether or not the idea is good.

Can you give us an example of an extreme advertisement that Dubai recently produced ?

The UAE is extremely competitive, always wanting the biggest and the best. Look at The Burj Khalifa, The Palm islands, the largest indoor ski slope etc. Recently, the UAE produced the longest outdoor hoarding and the biggest building wrap in the world. If you have the money, it can be produced. And there’s no shortage of money in this region. Unfortunately even if you have the world’s largest building wrap, if that piece of communication doesn’t have an idea that people will talk about, it just ends up being the world’s largest piece of wallpaper 🙂

In what ways is the advertising opportunity in the UAE greater than any other country?

This is a relatively young market that is growing at an incredible rate. The opportunities are endless. Yes there are certain constraints as I said before, but these constraints I find, have helped us produce better, universally relevant campaigns. You also have a melting pot of cultures in the UAE. In our agency alone, we have around 20 different nationalities all working together. Every person brings with them a wealth of creativity and knowledge from their home country. Geographically speaking, the UAE is centrally located and from a creative point of view, it allows us to tap into the hottest resources from around the world.

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