Michele De Iuliis: ‘Dubai, a melting pot of creative styles and thinking’
Posted on 2024 Jul,10

Get to know of some of the GCC’s best creative leaders through this specially tailored ASKED & ANSWERED questionnaire designed to learn what are top agencies’ creative kitchen made of. They come from diverse horizons. They trace their professional trajectory— where they grew up and how they landed in the GCC. Michele De Iuliis, Associate Creative Director, Havas Creative Middle East tells ArabAd what made him pack up and head to Dubai without ever visiting the city. He also talks about the importance of awards, why they matter so and the ones he aspires to win the most.



Where did you grow up?

I’m from Sardinia, a beautiful island in the Mediterranean. After high school, I moved to Perugia, nestled in Italy's heartland, and then completed my studies in Cork City, Ireland. Beautiful green hills everywhere, but those clouds rarely let the sun through—I think I saw it maybe seven days a year. However, during that time, I discovered a special affinity for the Irish; their warmth reminded me of home. Later, moving to South Africa marked a profound change in my life. Starting my professional journey there, I felt embraced by the culture and the people, a connection I still treasure deeply.


What made you pick Dubai? 

After seven years in South Africa, I unfortunately had to leave due to an extremely complicated visa process and not getting my renewal. Back in Italy, I struggled to find a full-time job in Northern Europe, so I freelanced until I shifted my interest toward Dubai, encouraged by friends from South Africa who praised the straightforward visa process. So, I sent my CV to a recruiter, and about a month later, I was on my way to Dubai, packing up without having ever visited the UAE.


How would you explain your job to a taxi driver?

In my role, I focus on creative direction and oversee creatives here in Dubai and Cairo. I’m also part of an international team tasked with the implementation of AI within our agency network, from streamlining internal processes to finding innovative ways to integrate AI into the creative process, aiming to enhance creativity and streamline operations across departments and more than five offices across the global Havas network.

More than a taxi driver, I always remember how I describe my job to my parents: I tell them I help make the ads they see on TV and online. I’m the one who makes sure everything looks good and works smoothly, kind of like making sure all the pieces of a puzzle fit perfectly so the picture comes out just right.


What makes Dubai so attractive for creative talents?

One big draw is definitely the straightforward visa process, which was a huge factor in my decision to move here. It cuts through the usual red tape and lets you focus on your work instead of getting bogged down by bureaucracy. This ease of entry means Dubai attracts creative minds from all over—Asia, the Americas, Australia, South Africa, and Europe. Everyone brings their unique perspective, keeping our ideas fresh and exciting. It's this melting pot of creative styles and thinking that makes Dubai an incredible place for creatives.


What do you love most about Dubai?

It’s the diversity of its people that I love most. Since leaving Italy, I’ve realized how much richness different cultures bring to our lives, and Dubai offers this daily. I feel fortunate to have friends from so many different backgrounds. This cultural diversity not only enriches our social interactions but also deeply influences our creative work, making every day in Dubai a new opportunity for personal and professional growth.


“This multicultural environment helps prevent us from being too close-minded in our approach and enriches our campaigns with a variety of viewpoints.”





How do so many cultures work together to create successful campaigns that speak its own language and fit so many cultures at the same time?

I feel like we are still figuring this out; it’s not perfect yet. But the most successful campaigns often tap into universal truths that resonate across cultures. We all have more in common than we might think, yet it’s also crucial to integrate fresh perspectives on local insights. Here in Dubai, the population is incredibly diverse, and we have the unique advantage of seeing our ideas through multiple cultural lenses. This multicultural environment helps prevent us from being too close-minded in our approach and enriches our campaigns with a variety of viewpoints.


Do you find it easy to work on campaigns that flex a cultural nuance truly distinct to the region, delivering the kind of hyper relevance that you may have struggled to land in a Western homogenized culture?

Sometimes. I think my experience in South Africa was crucial, teaching me the significance of respecting diverse local cultures. I had to quickly learn to understand cultural insights and I was successful in some of my campaigns, but it wasn’t easy; I got better with time. Mastering these nuances isn't straightforward, but when you do, it feels exceptionally rewarding. 

In Dubai, the challenge is similar and equally gratifying. When our campaigns resonate with the local community, it confirms that we've effectively captured their spirit and values.





Why do you think advertising awards matter so much?

Advertising awards really matter because they push us all to aim higher. They’re not just about getting a trophy; they challenge us to keep things fresh and innovative in our industry. When we shoot for awards, we’re pushing creativity to the front, which is key to solving real business issues. Just crunching numbers isn’t enough to really connect with people—you need that creative spark to really grab their attention and stick in their minds. 

So, winning these awards means we’re on the right track, making ads that aren’t just effective but also memorable. It’s about working together with our clients to make sure we’re all aiming for that level of excellence, because at the end of the day, creative work that resonates with people is what sells products and builds brands.


Your take on this year’s Dubai Lynx..

I think the Dubai Lynx just keeps getting better every year. It’s amazing to see that even the smaller markets in the region are stepping up and proving they can compete at the highest levels. But there’s still a long road ahead. We’re a bit behind the legacy and identity that places with a longer history in advertising have established, which can be tough to compete against. We're still figuring out what makes the work from this region distinctly ours, balancing our unique identity while embracing our multicultural strengths. Like how in South Africa, radio is super effective because of the long commutes—everyone’s listening in their cars. We have similar conditions here, and I think we could be making much more of that kind of unique media opportunity.


The one award every creative or agency wants to win?

Every agency aspires to win a Cannes Lion; everybody knows that. However, I personally hold D&AD in special regard. It’s notoriously challenging, demanding nothing but excellence in craft across all categories. You might win at Cannes but receive nothing at D&AD, highlighting its rigorous standards. D&AD truly is the benchmark for creative excellence.


Your top three awards...

D&AD, Cannes Lions, One Show. In that order.


One of your favorite creative projects that you didn’t work on that was awarded at the Lynx and that you admire.

I'm really impressed by how event promos have evolved, and the "Rumble" campaign from Accenture Song is a perfect example. Modern promos are no longer just about listing the event details like timing and channels (or streaming services); they've become more thoughtfully curated and conceptually rich. This campaign elevates the typical promo by weaving in a narrative that enhances fans’ connection to both the sport and its stars. Its creative approach revitalizes the promo format, engaging fans by reminding them of their passion for the sport and its heroes in a refreshingly polarizing way.


Could you name a recent project you are proud of and think deserves to be awarded?

I’m particularly proud of “THE GAMEVERSE TAKEOVER,” our recent campaign for the eSport World Cup. This ambitious project aimed to unify the fragmented esports landscape into a single, spectacular global event. Our team created promotion videos in 15 cities, using 3D graphics to bring iconic game elements to life in the real world. A highlight was the reveal at the Sphere in Las Vegas, where the games, teams, and the World Cup were announced. The campaign celebrated the distinct cultures and icons of each community, resulting in 31M total engagements, over 122M views, and significant fan interaction, showcasing our success in connecting with dedicated esports fans worldwide.