With 17 years experience in global integrated communication, having worked in Europe and in the Middle East for Publicis, McCann, MRM, Momentum, JWT and Y&R, Alex Brunori is a creative with a long score of successful case histories and awards. In March 2015, after just nine months into the creative leadership of Publicis ME, Alex got an impressive debut at Lynx Awards--which he opened with a speech on integration--scoring one gold, one silver, two bronzes and seven shortlists, taking an office that had never had any track record of creative excellence directly under the spotlight. ArabAd caught up with Alex to get a better glimpse of who he is, what he does and what makes him tick.
You certainly stand out within the creative community for a number of reasons some of which are highly unconventional. How have your personal interests, be it yoga, music and writing affected the work you do on a professional level?
I think that creatives must have interest and expertise in many fields, and bring the inspiration from those fields into advertising. Like what we have done for our latest Nescafé campaign: it is based on a Japanese philosophical concept, “Ikigai”, which means “the reason for which you wake up in the morning”. Knowing that reason makes your life better, happier and more focused and we thought it was a perfect platform for the brand. The creatives that only feed on and specialise in advertising end up imitating what has already been done, which is the opposite of what an advertiser is supposed to do. My main sources of inspiration are new technologies, contemporary art, live media, music creation, yoga and meditation. I am myself quite active in these fields.
Your new appointment, as previously expressed by you, will see you focusing on more deeply integrated communication campaigns. Is this because you feel this kind of communication is missing in the region?
It is because at Publicis Dubai we think integrated is the best way to do modern communication. It is more engaging, more effective, gives our clients more value for money, requires less actors and interlocutors at the beginning of the process and it is more strategic for brands as the approach is not biased by specialisations and legal entities or media choices. It is an unbiased, consultant kind of approach, which is what we at Publicis Dubai practice, and hope to be appreciated for. Of course we will keep having equally effective, more single-minded approaches too, but not as the dominant model.
You referred to the region as a place, “with a myriad possibilities owing to its diverse, dynamic culture and people…” What does this rich mix offer in terms of advantages and what are the challenges for someone in your position?
A melting pot is always more of an opportunity than a challenge. Having a mix of cultures, talents and people like the one we have at Publicis Dubai is a paved way to do good advertising, as we work on universal insights that can work above the cultural specificities of the region and then be executed and fine-tuned according to those. The Nescafé campaign I was mentioning before is a good example: it stems from a universal truth from Japan and then moves to the region with stories of people from UAE, KSA and Lebanon who have found their own “ikigai”. My approach to the region’s culture and history is based on respect and will to know and understand. The biggest barrier for me is the language: it is such a deep, refined, expressive and diversified language that I really regret not possessing it.
Describe the level of creativity in the region and what are the barriers to raising the quality of the work to higher standards than those currently found?
I think that creativity in the region has come a long way, evident by the MENA results in all the most important global awards. Several major brands in the region are producing work of a quality so high that it is moving the whole industry forward. Some of the campaigns we are doing at Publicis Dubai for our clients, for example, are becoming global best practices and award-winning works, like our recent “The Performer” for Chrysler and “Ikigai” for Nescafé that have gathered one gold, one silver, two bronzes and seven shortlists at the recent Dubai Lynx. This shows that with the model of local campaigns based on universal insights and local executions, today it is increasingly easier to impact the whole industry starting from a region. That’s why it is more important than ever to refrain from creating fake campaigns and scam ads: it may work to win some easy metals, but those metals just end up making the industry poorer rather than richer.
What advertising trends do you find most interesting/exciting?
The most exciting thing is that we are now abandoning the old model of top-down, adlandish, patronising campaigns in favour of a more respectful form of communication based on an honest approach, dealing with real (or reality-inspired) stories that have an engaging relationship with people.
We all know the business of advertising has evolved dramatically. What is the biggest challenge creative people face today, how does this affect the way you carry out a campaign and is ‘the need for a ‘transformation in the creative thinking process’ the key?
The biggest challenge is to realise that today’s creative has to constantly keep his mind open, researching and studying every day. He has to be technologically and digitally savvy, ready to invent and prototype what has not been done before. For Nescafé’s Ikigai we created a vending machine that dispenses a free coffee if you tweet the reason you wake up for, that then gets printed on the cup. A contemporary creative should be able to think of integrated concepts rather than just campaigns. He should be fully immersed in the social sphere and well aware of its mechanisms. He should be able to inspire and sustain conversations, creating ideas that people want to talk about. The creatives who won’t will run the risk of becoming just old school one-trick ponies.