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 UAEs advertising industry.
By Diana Milne
Thu 24 Apr 2008 03:32 PM

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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