Roy Khachan, Strategic Planner and Rifaat Fakih, Junior Strategic Planner at TBWARaad MENA highlight five of the most eye-opening and relevant trends, which the agency refers to as ‘edges’ that are seeping into the cultural cracks of the MENA region.
The modern world has become way too trend-driven. It’s becoming almost impossible to catch up. While this is the case, any advertising junkie who would partake in a quick desk research would notice that trends aren’t really changing drastically. They are just being recycled. Isn’t that ironic? Because the whole point of trends is to shape culture. Yet we find ourselves stuck in the same box. In the same convention.
At TBWA we have built a cultural engine, “Backslash”, that not only allows us to stay on top of trends, but to also spot cultural seeds – the tip of trends as they develop – or as we like to call them: edges. We picked five of the most eye-opening and relevant edges that are seeping into the cultural cracks of the MENA region.
1-Beyond the Holy Books
Even religion couldn’t escape the age of digitalization. We see pious believers take on new methods of religious practice where their faith and their phones are interconnected. For instance, Saudi Arabia’s Hajj pilgrimage is getting the e-treatment. A wearable tech gadget is helping pilgrims avoid the most crowded areas of the holy site through artificial intelligence and geolocation. Adding to that, those who fall ill are being treated by a robot physician programmed to monitor health issues like fever and abnormal heart palpitations. Another example is the rise of the first social media religious influencer Talabe Oday… #blessed !
Boycotting is so 2000-and-late. With the ever-increasing power of Instagram and Twitter, the power to ‘cancel’ others is one social media outburst away. Keyboard warriors are mightier than ever and their power is not to be taken for granted. The latest victim to be ‘cancelled’ is none other than Dubai-based Lebanese influencer Dana Hourani. Hourani, through a creative content piece, told angry and hungry online revolutionists “do not worry” from the comfort of her UAE home. This caused massive outrage and even led some users to create parody videos mocking Hourani’s unconventional contribution to the ongoing Lebanese revolution. This resulted in an apology letter from the influencer, posted on her Instagram account.
Despite globalization, place still matters. Whether driven by a sense of pride, authenticity, convenience, and eco-concerns: local products, services, and knowledge will forever find favor with local consumers. With the launch of their latest brand campaign ‘Start Something’, one of TBWARAAD’s own, Careem, won the hearts of millions in the MENA region. The campaign highlighted eight real and inspiring stories of individuals from the region who started something; ranging from a small act of kindness to a refugee who has an original fashion line. What struck a chord with viewers was the contextual and authentic relevance that the campaign embodied. As opposed to global brands who execute generic representations and stock footage that is too Western for the feel of the region.
The alpha male has gone for a mani-pedi. Looking good has become a necessity, be it while walking around at the mall or lifting weights at the gym. Smooth skin, shiny-waxed legs, and a little concealer to hide the after-effects of late nights are ever more popular. Research shows that by 2022, the men’s grooming market in the Arabian Gulf will be valued at $3.27B. When it comes to entertainment, we can see a seismic shift happening in the hobbies of some men who are dumping footballs for belly-dancing belts.
Khansa is an artist who is bending gender norms through his disruptive artistic interpretations. Lebanese drag queens are also taking center stage with their fierce looks and fearless expressions, to the extent that local bars are booking them to become resident entertainers.
Together forever no more. Arabs are no longer keeping the ring on the finger. Rising divorce rates in MENA have officially become a cause for concern. This is the trend that has reached our region. But what others haven’t noticed yet is that there is an edge hanging at the end of this trend. Instead of lamenting their solo-ism, celibate Arabs are embracing this new-founded independence. Heck, they are even celebrating it. In Dubai’s popular Marina district, boat parties are riding on a different wave. With its striking neon-blue sign, Gugu Boat is one that invites passers-by to rejoice in their “weddings and divorces”. So if you ever find yourself partying on a boat in Dubai, make sure you’re on the right boat for the right celebration!