Saatchi and Saatchi CEO slams UAE advertising

EXCLUSIVE: Advertising giant's top exec launches scathing attack on emirates' agencies.

ADVERTISING FAILURE: Kevin Roberts, pictured, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi has criticised the UAE's advertising industry.

ADVERTISING FAILURE: Kevin Roberts, pictured, CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi has criticised the UAE's advertising industry.

The worldwide CEO of advertising giant Saatchi and Saatchi has launched a scathing attack on advertising in the UAE describing it as “absolute cr**”.

In an exclusive interview to be published in CEO Middle East magazine next month, Kevin Roberts said he believed creative agencies in the region had failed to embrace modern technology and were producing work that looked as though it had been made in 1995.

“I think it’s cr**, absolute cr**. They haven’t embraced the internet or mobile technology and they are producing work that on the whole looks like it has come from 1995. It’s just so disappointing.”

Roberts singled out real estate advertising as being of a particularly poor standard.

“Just look at all the money that is spent on real estate. And then look at all the work and it all just looks the same. You’ve got to be kidding me. It just cracks me up.”

According to Roberts, it is fear on the part of creative agencies in the region to take risks that is hampering the quality of the work produced.

“I think everybody is frightened to death. They are frightened of clients, of bureaucracy, of risks, they are frightened socially, they are frightened of offending people and they are frightened of the diverse nature of the population.”

Roberts revealed that during a visit to Dubai last week to promote his latest book, he told regional members of the IAA (International Advertising Association) exactly what he thought of the quality of advertising in the UAE.

“I gave a lunch to the IAA and I told them all that. They were all nodding in agreement. But they are going to tell me excuses. They will tell me it’s because the clients won't take a risk, it’s because they’re research dominated, they can’t attract the best talent, or it’s because of the budget. But it’s all b******t.

“I understand all that and so what? Look around you at Dubai and did anybody have that excuse when they designed the buildings or the Palm or when they built the One and Only Royal Mirage?. All these people had the same problems. So just get over yourselves.”

Roberts said he hoped Saachi would now “lift the creative bar” and “lead the way creatively” in the UAE, where the agency has recently been awarded the advertising contract for The Atlantis Development on the Palm Jumeirah.

He said he believed Emirates Airline was one of the few Middle East brands to achieve excellence in advertising.

“Emirates I think are in a class of their own. They are absolutely amazing. The Emirates experience is just beautiful, it’s in touch, beautiful and empathetic.”

Roberts visited Dubai last week to promote his latest book The Lovemarks Effect: Winning in the Consumer Revolution.

The Kevin Roberts interview will be published in full in the new look CEO Middle East magazine, available throughout the UAE on May 1st. This special 144 pages issue also contains exclusive interviews with property legend Donald Trump, and GIO boss Rashid Galadari.

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Posted by: Kieran

My all time favorite was a real estate showroom that prominently displayed home made adverts for the palm as an "infamous" location. When I went in and tried to point out that infamous is used for describing people like Pol Pot or the Shatila massacre, not for the palm, they still didn't see the error. (And they were not from the "mono-ethnicity" referred to elsewhere but were a group of British ladies no doubt employed for looks not education) Anyway Cr** advertising at least gives us all something to laugh at. Nothing that's been released in the UK in the last 10 years has any merit which is probably why so much of it has deserted the majors and put its budgets in the hands of Google and Yahoo, to the consternation of Saatchi and friends.

Posted by: The Consultant

Nice try John, but you're defending the indefensible. Your comment that "ads should appeal to consumers" is interesting. Given that most advertising in the UAE is devoid of originality and sophistication, and often peppered with sloppy English, this would suggest that many advertising executives have a pretty low opinion of the target audience. It also seems as though many "creative" types have a certain amount of contempt for their own clients - "Let's bang out the usual old rubbish, they won't know the difference anyway". It may be the case that some clients do not want to rock the boat and actually want their advert to look/sound like everyone else's, but even then there is no excuse for the level of grammatical and linguistic mistakes in the adverts. People who are being paid to write professionally should be able to do the job properly.

Posted by: John McGray

Get off your high horse and maybe your feet will touch the ground Count Kevin of Saatchi! Your remarks are just a cheap stunt to get your book moving off the shelves; furthermore it would have been more appropriate to know the consumers before commenting on the ads... isn't it the purpose of all ads to appeal to consumers! For all the IAA who were nodding... GET OVER IT.... so he's a world famous CEO but he knows s*** about the region excepts that it is rich in oil and he wants a piece of the cake. And if you think your work is c***; get a new job! I am proud of every creative person in Dubai, Doha, Cairo, Beirut & Jeddah. Guys, YOU ROCK! Kevin.... get a life!

Posted by: REBEL

Creative intellligence is lacking which is what Kevin is saying upfront. Dubai needs creative rebels and not safe, fearful types who follow the book. The so called media mafia from one ethnicity in this market is killing the creativity - you need multicultural empowered, media , marketing creative rebels. Good on Kevin and hopefully Saatchi & Saatch will lead the way.

Posted by: Vishal

It's about time someone vocalised this....maybe this is the kick in the shins certain 'controlling groups' in the ad industry need to stop working as a mafia...

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