André Pereira Nassar, a native of Brazil and Leo Burnett’s regional executive creative director, could have easily chosen to work with any ad agency throughout the world. Yet, Dubai, --having lived there for the past three years-- he believes is unmatched compared with other creative hubs in existence. Highly decorated, with 12 Cannes Lions to his name among others, he is a highly inquisitive man who, prior to his current position, was working at AlmapBBDO in São Paulo. What follows is his take on a country, which he calls home and describes as "the city of the possible where effort and dedication always pay off, big time!"
What was your first impression of Dubai as a creative hub?
Before I set off for the challenge, I did my research but still nothing prepared me for what I felt when I came here. I never thought I’d work in Dubai but when the opportunity with Leo Burnett presented itself, an agency I previously worked for in Brazil and had the best experience throughout my career, I had to come and check it out. The agency invited me and they were very confident that I would like the city. When I arrived, I was so surprised and directly understood that their sentiment was well founded. As a creative director, I started to look into the small details and the more I looked, the more I discovered that the city was perfectly crafted. There is so much attention to detail. To think that it was created from nothing in such a short period of time still baffles me. So I thought, if so much was done on so many levels in terms of infrastructure, then great things could also be done in advertising. I felt it was a big opportunity.
How does living in Dubai influence your creativity?
It opened my mind, completely. When you come to Dubai you are literally at the center of the world. Besides being exposed to an extensive array of cultures and nationalities, you are close to Europe, to other countries in the Middle East, to Asia. Two weeks ago, I flew to Georgia in Eastern Europe in just three hours. In one hour, you are in India! You get completely different references. It makes your mind grow. It just inspires you.
Where do you find your source of inspiration?
My inspiration comes from people, simple human behaviour. I would be sitting in Marina Walk and I just watch people pass by, talking to each other, and sometimes this is all you need to create content. This is advertising.
Although the UAE is a melting pot of different cultures mingling with each other, you still feel that there are some fine lines separating people into groups. How does that affect your creative process?
Creativity is fueled by challenges. When you are not faced with a challenge, you tend to be less creative. Living in such a diverse environment drives you to explore new ideas of communication. You need to diversify content in order to connect effectively with all the different communities within Dubai and the GCC. You create projects that work very well in Saudi Arabia and then you have to create a successful campaign that penetrates the Filipino community. You are constantly on the lookout for what works best.
What’s been the greatest creative challenge you have faced since moving to Dubai?
I always say that my biggest challenge is the next challenge. It is a daily learning process. A recent challenge that required a lot of preparation and resulted in a fulfilling experience was winning the Emirates Airlines account, one of the most iconic brands in the world.
The world of Advertising is constantly evolving. What is the most interesting change you’ve noticed in the past few years, particularly in the region?
I believe everybody is learning to interact with the consumer in real time conversation. We are now trying to spread a message at a much higher scale but despite all the technological advancements, what remains the most important is the idea behind all of it. Even if the latest technology is used but you still do not have good content, you do not have good communication.
Some would say that Dubai lacks a genuine identity, attributed perhaps to the novelty of the country and mixed cultures. What are your thoughts?
I do not seem to understand people who think Dubai lacks a genuine identity. Dubai is new, and there’s a big difference. It is changing everyday and the more it changes the more its established identity is further fortified. It has an inviting culture that attracts people from all over the world. They want talent from every country and that combined with the enthusiasm and support of the Emirati people has created a beautiful identity that keeps on reinventing itself.
What are some of your favourite places in the city?
I keep on discovering new places all the time. I love all the restaurants in DIFC, Café Bateel in Marina, Talise Spa in Jumeira! When I have time, I like to go to the old part of Dubai. I like to walk and see the traders and discover where Dubai started.
Can you give advice to aspiring creatives who are thinking of taking the leap and moving here?
Don’t come here to retire! If you think you will come to Dubai to be comfortable you have to think again. When you come here, you have to work very hard because there is a lot to build. You need to find solutions, think of new ways to do things. Learn, unlearn, and relearn. And you have to do all that, all the time.
Do you have a Dubai-life motto?
Work hard and be honest. You can then do everything you want.
If not Dubai, where would you be right now?
I had opportunities to go to London, New York, Los Angeles. They are the most obvious places for creatives who want to have an international experience. These places have been molded by decades and decades of advertising and they are too structured so you will only be able to follow what they normally do. I do not want to go to a place where you are just another number. I like the unusual. I think Dubai gives you an opportunity that these places cannot give you. It is a young market and there is so much to do. I came here to teach, to learn and to witness evolution everyday. I don’t think I could be in a better place.