Karim Sherif: ‘Maybe I should open a shawarma stand’
Posted on July 13, 2017

Memac Ogilvy’s Karim Sherif, reports back from his first ever Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

Mad cats everywhere. The great industry pilgrimage to the French Riviera commenced with a flight full of peers, partners and industry personnel.

This was my first time at Cannes and I can’t even begin to tell you about the monumental amount of butterflies jittering in my jiggly belly. There was this sense of unison, with everyone coming in from the region. We were going for gold as one united front. No politics, no rivalry and no Lynx lightsaber crossing. This was where it really mattered.

A few days into the festival and it started to feel like we were competing in the Olympics. The US and Australia were sweeping the board. Then it hit me. This is big, very big. Things here aren’t just measured by the significance of a culture’s humour, emotional relevance, how cleverly you used your client’s small budget, or how many cans of Quaker Oats you helped your client sell this Ramadan. Or even about changing everyday behaviour. It must’ve taken jury members an immense amount of mind power to reach a collective agreement on all the work entered.

I managed to meet up with some members from the cyber jury, who told me this was definitely a robust year of arguing, fighting, voting and re-voting – then lightening the mood by singing the Coca-Cola line-up song in the jury room.

But still, it was tedious to think that most ideas went above and beyond because of the use of technology, or a new invention that helps a humanitarian cause. It would be interesting to sit in a room with a client and ask them to give us all their budget and spend it on data collecting, then build something and channel it well enough to create a piece that would travel the multiscreen universe. The results would drop the mic for you.

Everyone would later end up in the gutter. No seriously, I’m sure you’re all familiar with that mangy place: The Gutter Bar. People would pay up to €25 for a pizza no bigger than a pigeon and it was the tastiest thing on the planet because it was probably the only thing open on the planet at that time. It got me thinking maybe I should open a shawarma stand next year. 

Finally things started to look brighter for the MENA region. Even great pieces from Kuwait and Bahrain converted rather well, though there was still an immense amount of great work that was left out or only got shortlisted. Great work for Visa from Impact BBDO and for Royal Jordanian from Memac Ogilvy Jordan could’ve easily taken home a few good wins.

I suppose we really need to delve harder and rationalise what it is exactly we want our region to stand for. They say you judge a county’s personality by its advertising. Do we want to walk with Lions, or do we want to help our clients by solving their business problems? Cannes may not necessarily give you both. It’s a gamble. But if it happens, you can finally have some peace of mind, quit advertising and open that Shawarma stand by the gutter.