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I am a regular contributor to trade publications Campaign ME, Communicate ME, GMR (Gulf Marketing Review), Al Taswiq Al Arabi, Arab Ad, Focus intelligence report, Media Week, Byte, Aswaq, Awraq and other digital platforms including AME info, Ad Nation, Creative Latitude, LogoLounge and MediaME.

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Breaking with Tradition

As Islamic banking takes off, advertisers need to move out of their comfort zone.




Until recently, the banks’ communications needed to do little more than establish their Islamic credentials – using Islamic in their names, using traditionally Islamic color scheme of green and white on their ads and logo, and including the seal of Shari’ah scholars on all communications.


For Louai Alasfahani, managing director of Kuwait-based ad agency Paragon Marketing Communications, which handles Boubyan Bank – Kuwait’s second Islamic bank  - it is high time that changed.


“I’m sure a lot of these banks are relying solely on the advantage of being Islamic, and this is the point that will attract the religious clients who want to be safe.” He says. “It’s reminiscent of the day when there was only one mobile operator in Kuwait. ‘You want to have access to these services? You deal with us,” says Alasfahani.


“Banks are marketing themselves as, ‘We are your only choice, so forget our crappy advertising agency and all the stupid communication that insults your intelligence as a client. You still have to put up your money with us,” he adds.


Banks have to move beyond that, says Ogilvy’s Barakat. “Everyone is advertising Islamic banking on one platform: Peace of mind,” he says. “Everyone is hinting it’s a pure form of banking. I find the message a bit naïve. For me it’s a form of emotional blackmail.


He adds, “The problem with this ethics thing is: What’s the difference? Fine, you are a guardian of Islamic values. Great. But you’re all guardians. They have to define their proposition.


Boubyan bank has used the polar opposite approach, according to Alasfahani, refusing to advertise the fact that it is an Islamic bank at all. Its corporate colors are red and black and it doesn’t use any Islamic motifs, or even mention Islamic services.


“They wanted to differentiate themselves from the other Islamic banks,’ says Alasfahani. “They did not want to use religion as a marketing tool, which I believe is very good. They handle their banking according to Shari’ah, but the way they portray themselves in the market is that they are a modern, sophisticated bank with excellent services for all nationalities and religions.”




Alasfahani’s approach of avoiding mention of religion entirely is a novel one, and, unsurprisingly, it makes no sense to some , including others in the advertising field.




“Kuwait Finance House (Kuwait’s first Islamic bank) has improved recently because they changed their agency, but only after Boubyan started getting noticed,” says Paragon’s Alasfahani, adding that the trend toward creative sophistication is marked throughout the Kuwaiti banking sector. “It used to be very bad. But now it’s just bad.”


Arabad 30-seconds questionnaire


The "30-seconds" questionnaire, helps our readers learn a little bit more about what is that makes you tick, what rocks your world professionally and somewhat personally.

1. What kills you most?

2. What gets you up in the morning?

3. What happened to your childhood dreams?
Realized them as a child and dreamed of bigger ones which I am currently living in.

4. What distinguishes you from others?


5. What do you need most?

6. Do you think that anyone can become an artist?
Everyone is born an artist, most people either fear or are ignorant of

expressing their art.

7. Where are you from?
Planet Oceania.

8. Do you feel your situation is enviable?

9. What have you given up on?
Persuading others to do the right thing.

10. What do you do with your money?
Spend it.

11. What moves you?

12. What are your favorite pleasures?
Diving. Exploring. Reading. expanding my knowledge and experience.

13. What would you like to receive for your birthday?
A better question.

14. Name 3 living artists that you hate most?
What is Hate?

15. What or whom do you defend?

16. What are you capable of refusing?

17. What are you capable of doing in the name of love?
Quit advertising.

18. What are you blamed for?
Telling it as it is.

19. What does art bring to you?
A measuring tool for the evolution of humankind.


20. Who do you think you are?


21. What drives you nuts?
The death of a good idea.

22. Write your own epitaph?
He may not have changed the world (as he would liked to have done),

but at least he kept the balance.

23. Under what form would you like to come back as?

Siberian Tiger.

24. What was the last book you read?
My Name Is Charles Saatchi And I Am An Artoholic.


25. Do you like animals?

I love them, and they back :)

26. Why did you choose advertising?

Because of Art & Design.

27. Who is the woman of your dream?


28. What is your philosophy in life?

29. What is the most important thing in your life?

30. Talk to an alien – draw an alien. (you can draw anything that Means for you...)
Howdy stranger, wanna pitch against us for an out of this world client and see who gets turned into stardust?


1- In the advertising world, copycat/plagiarism has been a hot topic with a number of high-profile cases including the recent news of the Lynx awards. In your opinion, do the negative findings and bad ending of this year’s Lynx Award taint the reputation of the ad industry in the Arab World?

The “findings” you are referring to, are the unlawful entries into the recent Lynx, which are unquestionably negative; however the exposure of such “findings” and the punitive actions taken so far are undeniably positive; so this years’ Lynx should not be seen as a bad ending but rather viewed as a good beginning towards awarding work that reflects the creative reality of the Arab world.

The entire ad industry in the Middle East cannot be liable for the choice of others to win by cheating and the only reputations that got tainted were of the individuals/agencies proved guilty of unlawful practices that demonstrated lack of self-respect, no appreciation of the Lynx organizers/judges and the abandonment of the ad industry.

2- With the Lynx resulting disgraceful news to the ad industry in the Middle East, how could our creative people maintain a reputation of being tough on cheating? Do you suppose that FP7 Doha’s misconduct will work as a lesson for others not to follow?

Lets keep things focused and in actual proportion - The Lynx did not result in disgraceful news to the ad industry in the Middle East. Creativity awards function like mirrors, reflecting undistorted images of its subjects. If we don’t like an ugly reflection can we blame the mirror!

We cannot maintain that which we have not yet established. Taking punitive actions establishes the reputation of being tough on cheating; ensuring that history does not repeat itself maintains the reputation of being though on cheating. On this note; I hope that the organizers of the Dubai Lynx investigate all the agencies accused of misconduct and not stop at FP7 Doha, as they were not the only agency guilty of misconduct although punitive actions against them served a good lesson for the entire industry.

3- Should the Lynx organisers have taken more rigorous actions against FP7, in regards to the ethical standards expected of them?

To insure that this years’ disappointment does not become next year’s disaster’ the Lynx organizers should have taken more rigorous actions against everyone proved not to have withheld the ethical standards expected from them regardless if they were awarded, shortlisted or simply entered into the competition in accordance with their own rules “Entrants or companies who are proved to have deliberately and knowingly contravened any rules relating to eligibility may be barred from entering the awards for a period of time following the Festival as specified by the Organizers”

John Hegarty - worldwide creative director of BBH in a recent interview stressed the enforcement of such rules “any agency found to have cheated should have all its entries withdrawn and, depending on the severity of the case, face a suspension from entering for a fixed period of time”.

Till date the Lynx has not announced news on any agency being suspended, they are yet to announce news pertaining to the results of their investigations into other agencies work and news of FP7 internal investigation findings are still pending.

4- It seems ‘copy-caters’ around the Arab world have kept themselves busy reproducing foreign original work, as their own, so much so that it is impossible to keep track of it all.  Do you believe legal implications should be embraced in cases of advertising plagiarism and culprits punished by bodies such as the IAA for instance? Please elaborate.

Legal implications should be embraced in the case of advertising plagiarism on

various levels.

The organizers of creativity awards can take legal action because plagiarizers damage their credibility and ultimately result in their financial loss.

Agencies can take legal or disciplinary actions against plagiarizers within their own organization because plagiarizers damage their reputation and could lead to legal actions taken against them as well as financial loss.

The IAA (to my knowledge) unfortunately cannot legally punish anyone; however they can boycott creativity awards and organizations that do not maintain ethical standards.

I hope that one day local governments would enforce the existing copyright laws by actions similar to those taken against importers of fake products or publishers of misleading ads as It is no longer impossible to keep track of copycats since the dawn of the internet and the proliferation of sites such as,, and (just to name a few) coupled with the increasing awareness of the people in ad land and their blogs which means “You can fool some of the people some of the time; you cannot fool all the people all the time”.

5- Defining just where influence ends and plagiarism begins can be a difficult question. Knowing you and your dedication to passionately fighting copycat executions in the Arab world, who should, in your opinion, be the solo judge of a plagiarism accusation and what should the ad industry do to live in a state of radical originality?

I do not believe that the burden of fighting copycats should be laid solely on the back of a single individual or entity.

Plagiarism affects everyone in the industry so the entire industry should be united in fighting this battle and since there is no “ultimate god of advertising” I am thankful that there are plenty of passionate professionals out there that can collectively be entrusted with the task of judging cases of plagiarism accusations; which could be coordinated with several IAA chapters simultaneously.

Any additional shouts?....

“You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements” – Norman Douglas.

Most people claim to be seeking the truth; but the truth is that most people cannot handle the truth; Even though International creativity awards instantly disqualify copycats, clichés badly written or badly executed work – copycats/spoofs/ghost ads continue to win local and regional creativity awards and If the laws (or the ignorance of some) did not prevail in preventing copycats from profiting financially from plagiarism does that necessitate awarding them on the basis of creativity! Agencies are paid to create good work not to copy great work because “Imitation is not the most sincere form of admiration but the sincerest form of thievery”.


Do you have any regrets about publishing 'John Doe's' letter? (so, is
there anything you would have done differently or are you satisfied
with the outcome)


I should first summarize what is all about in order to demonstrate the relevance of publishing such a letter.


Anubis is the only site in the Middle East devoted to combating copycat and spoof/ghost ads by exposing them (with facts) in an effort to truly raise the bar in the creative industry; this effort led to a partnership with the author of the worlds first and only book on copycat ads titled Nouveau? By a French author who manages a copycat site such sites exist because often award organizers tend to tern a def ear towards complaints about illegitimate awarded work.


Having explained the purpose of Anubis I have no regrets about publishing “John Doe’s” letter and if I had to do it all over again I would not hesitate for a nanosecond. Please remember that I only broke the code of silence by publishing the letter but it was the agencies that participated with illegitimate work that broke the laws. So don’t shoot the messenger.


In terms of satisfaction; on one level I am satisfied that finally after years of denial the advertising industry in this region was forced to acknowledge the existence of a problem that has reached a pandemic proportion and I see this as progress; since the first step towards solving a problem is admitting that the problem exists.


On a different level I am not satisfied by the fact that we (as agencies) have not yet solved the problem and shifted the blame towards the Lynx organizers with a focus on FP7 Doha.

What have you thought, generally speaking, about the nature of the blog posts on the issue? (helpful commentary or an opportunity for anonymous vendettas).


Overall it was a mix of both but I believe that there were more helpful commentary than anonymous vendettas (on Anubis at least)

Has the resultant fallout done irreparable damage to Lynx's image?


So far the Lynx’s image has only been dented but the irreparable damage would occur if FP7 Doha were used as a scapegoat to avoid taking disciplinary actions against all the other agencies that broke the rules and regulations of the Dubai Lynx Advertising Festival.

What measure do you think lynx can put in place to prevent such issues re-occurring?


Finally a call for action; progress is a revolutionary process ;)


1. Strip all illegitimate winners from their gongs.

2. Participants must attach a tear sheet to each entry in the Print category along with a media monitoring report stamped by either PARC or Ipsos-Stat.


3. Participants must attach a screening/broadcast certificate along with a media monitoring report stamped by either PARC or Ipsos-Stat for each entry into the Radio and TV/Cinema categories.


4. Lynx should remove the in-store Posters from in the Outdoor category – as this is a loophole for scam/spoof/ghost/copycat work.


5. Participants must attach a media monitoring report stamped by either PARC or Ipsos-Stat for each entry into the Outdoor category.


6. Lynx should appoint at least one industry practitioner from the region to aid in screening the work prior to the short-listing phase.



There are no dull products only dull brands. This is a topic that hundreds of books are written about and it is impossible to summarize it in a single article but I will try to lay down the foundation in simple terms to communicate it effectively as branding is the most misunderstood concept in all of marketing, even among professionals because it is not advertising and it's not marketing or PR. Branding happens before all of those: First you create the brand, then you raise awareness of it.


The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.


A brand is not a logo. A brand is not a corporate identity System. A corporate identity system function is to control and keep consistency in implementing the logo consistently across multiple platforms but consistency alone does not create a brand.


A brand is a promise of satisfaction that must be reinforced every time people come in contact with any facet of your organization. It is an unwritten contract between a manufacturer and a customer.


Branding is the act of devising the promise your company makes to the world.


Marketing is the strategy that differentiates your brand promise from all the other brand promises in that increasingly crowded house called "your category."


It takes strategy and creativity together to build a great brand. Most importantly, great brands are created in collaboration with forward-looking, open minded and courageous clients who have belief in integrating their brand strategies at every point of public contact and the transformative power of design as a competitive advantage.


A strong brand reaps economic benefits in the marketplace; it is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day. It's important to spend time investing in researching, defining, and building your brand. After all, your brand is the source of a promise to your consumer. It's a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want to be without, so it pays to become familiar with the process and rules for creating and maintaining a strong brand.


A brand must accurately reflect the core beliefs of your organization, your leadership, and all who deliver your brand experience to customers in a memorable, engaging, informative, useful experiences driven by ideas and insight.


Branding means coming up with a name, conveying an image, and keeping the brand up-to-date. Find a good branding agency locally as they would know what is relevant to your market and target audience as well as providing rapid response to marketing and media opportunities.


Before you spend any amount on advertising or marketing, define your brand identity—your products "personality". If you can't define your brand, your customers won't be able to, either. Answer in writing the following questions about your organization:


  1. Who are you?

  2. What do you do?

  3. Why does it matter?


That is the essence of your written brief to the agency, which will serve as the roadmap to your brand. Unless you have compelling answers to all three questions you haven’t got a brand.


Proceed by shortlisting branding agencies based on the quality of their portfolios – not price, and then award the work to the “chosen one”.


Be patient, your agency will ask plenty of questions to help them better understand your business and your customers as ultimately the brand belongs to them. Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of your customers, it is the sum total of their experiences and perceptions, some of which you can influence, and some that you cannot so your brand is not what YOU say it is. Its what THEY say it is. Keep it pure. keep it simple.


Logo design is an important area of graphic design and building your brand, and one of the most difficult to perfect. Emphasize on originality and creativity.


A logo as defined on Wikipedia is a graphical element, (ideogram, symbol, emblem, icon, sign) that, together with its logotype (a uniquely set and arranged typeface) form a trademark or commercial brand. Typically, a logo’s design is for immediate recognition, inspiring trust, admiration, loyalty and an implied superiority. [1] The logo is one aspect of a company’s commercial brand, or economic entity, and its shapes, colors, fonts, and images usually are different from others in a similar market.


The effective design and use of a logo employs the understanding of human behavior. Whether cultural, or internal, people recognize and react to color, shapes, lines, fonts and other symbolic forms with emotions tied to their experiences.


Some colors are formed/associated with certain emotions that the designer wants to convey. Colors have a broad range of meaning according to different nations and cultures. A color could mean one thing in a particular setting, and something completely different in another.


Logo design process


  • Designing a good logo is not a simple task and requires a lot of involvement from the marketing team and the design agency.

  • It requires clear idea about the concept and values of the brand as well as understanding of the consumer or target group.

  • Broad step in logo design process would be formulating concept, doing initial sketch, finalizing the logo concept, deciding the theme colors and format.


To legally protect your brand never use clipart - or part of a clipart- in your logo as the most important rule in branding is to Differentiate. How else would your brand be distinguished from its competitors and from generic products?


This is a very important point to consider and one that many organizations have fallen in its trap, proof of which can be found on a blog focusing the intellectual property infringements in the MENA region


On stripping FP7 Doha from the title

“Agency of the year”


Philip Thomas, the Dubai Lynx chief executive, said: "I hope that this swift action makes clear our determination to build an award with true integrity for the region”.

The above is an excerpt from a post on Campaign ME blog

Do requests by Steve Lane for me to pull down some content from and hints of legal actions against me if I don’t comply fall under “swift action” or under “determination to build an award with true integrity for the region”?

The following is the full e-mail sent to me by Steve Lane from the Dubai Lynx.


I hope all is well, just quick note regarding your Anubis blog.

Whilst i appreciate your efforts in bringing to light some of the work that did not meet our entry criteria, i am going to have to ask you to remove a couple of posts.

It seems that whilst onsite at the festival you took a number of pictures of work with your Camera from our Research kiosks which is now posted on the blog. Specifically some of the Kuwait entries. Unfortunately i do not have the right in terms of copyright to have this work disseminated outside the environs of the event. Our rights as organisers only cover using work to publicise the event, and unfortunately how you have used your screen captures is outside of that.

If the agencies in question catch on they will be able to come after you for breach of copyright and also ourselves, which is not a situation i wish to see.

We would be grateful if you can take the related pics down.

Best Regards

Mark Twain once said “It is not the size of the dog in the fight, its the size of the fight in the dog”. still has a lot of fight left in it.


The president of the UAE chapter of the International Advertising Association Lance de Masi said: "Lynx must safeguard compliance with the stated conditions of eligibility. To do otherwise would be to undermine credibility."

The above is an excerpt from a post on Campaign ME blog

It is no secret that the Lynx was presented in association with the IAA Dubai Chapter and since I am still a member of the IAA and a board member of the IAA Kuwait Chapter I felt obliged to report the facts.

Xxxx once said: “All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to be silent”. I will not be silenced; my passion for this industry and my since of duty prevents me from doing so. Deal with it.

I suggest that Instead of going after me for reporting such facts, to take legal actions against the agencies responsible for the unlawful entries that actually damaged the Lynx reputations?

I suggest that the Lynx don’t simply use FP7 Doha as a scapegoat and actually go after every agency that did not comply with the stated conditions of eligibility.


If stating facts about the true status of the industry has cost me the title of troublemaker by Media Week then this only goes to show how much trouble the industry is really in; and that’s troubling.

“The first step towards solving a problem is admitting that the problem exists”

What personal legacy are you setting?


If “You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertising” then the industry in this part of the world is not yet ready or deserving of its own creativity award show.


Related posts:


“All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to be silent”

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