Dubai Lynx is MENA’s premier festival of creativity and the region’s meeting place for the creative and marketing community. Sister festival to the internationally renowned Cannes Lions and attended by global influencers – it is the regional hub for inspiration, celebration and for brands and agencies to do business. We had an exclusive chat with Thea Skelton, Festival Director of Dubai Lynx, to talk about the 2023 edition of the festival and more..

BB: Dubai Lynx is out there to be an esteemed bespoke platform to honor creativity in every form. In a nutshell, what’s next for Creativity in MENA ?

TS: We have seen evidence of just how much creativity’s power to advance business, develop people and shape society resonates with audiences, jurors and consumers. To reflect this, the key themes for this year’s Festival, which are reshaping the creative industry across MENA, are: Diversity & Inclusion, Saudi Creativity and Business Case for Creativity. These themes are reflected in our content across both stages at Dubai Lynx this year, such as our session hosted by Annie Arsane, Head of Global Business Marketing – METAP, TikTok on the Future of Creativity. 

BB: Dubai Lynx is where MENA’s creative industry sets the bar for creative excellence; bringing together creative agencies, brands, startups and artists to celebrate what our region has achieved in the creative brand communications industry each year. Can you walk us through the defining moments of the festival this year ?

TS: Based on this year’s Festival it’s clear that community is at the heart of this industry. We know that great things happen when we’re able to bring the community together. We exist to drive progress through creativity for people, business and society. That’s a mission that’s very prevalent at the festival, but also exists every day of the year. 

The return of the physical Dubai Lynx marked a purposeful and more focused Festival but also a more accessible Festival. That’s something we want to build – we know that the more voices we have in our community the more relevant we’ll be as a brand. 

BB: What’s your take on creativity in the Middle East? Where do our creatives stand on a global map ? 

TS: We can see lots of exciting shifts taking place in the Middle East. The UAE moved up a place in the location rankings in the 2022 Lions Creativity Report, which is the definitive rankings for creative excellence in branded communications.

The UAE celebrated two Grands Prix at Cannes Lions 2022; One in the Outdoor Lions for ‘Liquid Billboard’ by Havas Middle East, Dubai, Cultural Insight for adidas. The world’s first swimmable billboard was created to promote the brand’s new inclusive, full-cover swimwear collection. The second in the Print & Publishing Lions, for ‘The Elections Edition’ for Annahar Newspaper, by Impact BBDO, Dubai. Jury President, Natalie Lam commented that “The Elections Edition has the kind of genius simplicity that we often see in Grand Prix winning work.”

BB: The Saudi Ministry of Culture has stated that its vision entails “a flourishing of arts and culture across Saudi Arabia that enriches lives, celebrates national identity and builds understanding between people”. What’s next for creativity in Saudi Arabia ?

TS: As we know the region is using creativity as a driving force for growth. Creativity is a key part of Saudi’s vision 2030 plan – and the training and development of young people in this sector is very much a part of this. We are seeing an increasing number of agencies from KSA enter and win at Dubai Lynx and it’s very exciting for us to watch the young talent from the Kingdom grow.

BB:  In your opinion, how is AI changing creativity and how the industry can positively adapt?

TS: A new world of technology is creeping into view, forcing creatives to adopt a different mindset and meet virtual consumers where they’re at. The truth is that not everyone has (or wants) a VR headset. Keeping people, not technology, front of mind when designing solutions is key. We must build on – rather than replace – human experience. There are limitations, however. Using technology in a clever way isn’t worth much if there are still people who can’t access it. Brands should still invest in technology-driven work, but more consideration should be given to who, exactly, can and will benefit from it. 

BB: As someone sitting behind the driving wheel of MENA’s biggest creativity stage, What are some of the defining trends of the creative industry in MENA in 2023 ? What are some of your wishes for the industry in the years to come ? 

TS: The Dubai Lynx Awards are the benchmark for creative and effective branded communications in MENA. Each year we strive to evolve the Awards and Juries to reflect the ever-changing industry landscape and continue to set the bar for creative excellence across the region. For 2023, Dubai Lynx announced important changes to its Awards, including the new Creative Commerce Lynx. This introduction reflects the region’s engagement with Commerce awards at our other festivals as well as an increase in commerce focussed work across the rest of Dubai Lynx. The Award celebrates the innovative and creative approach to online and offline commerce, payment solutions and transactional journeys. Entries will need to demonstrate how innovation and optimisation at any point of the end to end customer journey led to increased consumer engagement and commercial success.

Additionally, the Media Lynx have also been refreshed for 2023, to put the jury in the best position to reward true media ideas. The ‘Co-Creation of Branded IP’ category has been introduced to ensure the Award accurately reflects the current Media industry, and recognises the breadth of work that media agencies and specialists are engaging in.