With a star-studded gala ceremony under the sign of the masquerade, the MENA Effie Awards 2022 unveiled more than 100 winners across 42 categories from a batch of 600+ entries.
Trails of glistening ball gowns and bowties made their way to a pavilion decorated in feathers, candelabras, and mystery, at the foot of a building most emblematic of success – the Burj Khalifa. Like every year, industry professionals gathered on the evening of November 17 to celebrate the winners of the most prestigious marketing effectiveness awards show in the business – the MENA Effie Awards.
Now, this edition of the Effies may not have been different from the previous ones in its deliberation process and it's giving away more than 100 trophies across 42 different categories; but this ‘Modern Masquerade’ gala, attended by some 1,200 guests, certainly was unique. Dazzled by the magnificent setup, Ahmed Younis, Head of Meta Creative Shop for Meta across MENA, told Communicate, “This is the first time I’m seeing something like this! I’m clueless and have no idea what’s coming next.”
Wearing sparkling masquerade masks, attendees knew they were in for a bunch of surprises, and the first one was delivered in the opening address by Sahar Rafique, Managing Director at NordStella Events. “As some of you are aware, I have been working behind the curtains for over 13 years now and until last year, MENA Effie Awards was hosted by Mediaquest Corporation. From this year on, NordStella – a brand new subsidiary of Akama Holding – will be taking over the Effies, building on the legacy of the exquisite awards and reaching new heights in the events management sector,” she announced. With the tone set, the direction shifted to the winners' revelation. Early on, it became clear Publicis Groupe Middle East was poised to become the metal magnet for the night, grabbing 29 Gold, 14 Silver, and 18 Bronze along with two special awards – Most Effective Agency Office of the Year for its Leo Burnett Dubai office, and Most Effective Agency Network of the Year for Leo Burnett Middle East.
Elated, Bassel Kakish, CEO of Publicis Groupe ME & Turkey, told us, “Our Effies recognitions reinforce what I already know. We have an incredibly talented group of individuals at Publicis Groupe, who are passionate about creating powerful, impactful work. The difference is that we work collaboratively under our ‘Power of One’ model, and this extends to how we work with our clients, partnering with them to unlock value and growth. With our record wins, we’ve set a new benchmark not only for the industry but also for ourselves to maintain this momentum of marketing and creative excellence.” A rather flushed Tahaab Rais, Chief Strategy Officer at Publicis Groupe, explained how this recognition means a lot more to him than just collecting awards. “Over the years, I’ve watched clients get really excited about the likes of Effies and celebrate winning them – sometimes more than us agency folks! And that’s why awards matter – on a human level. Everyone I know faces some challenges in their lives and awards help people get recognized and feel that in life and an industry that are tough, they matter.”
We wouldn’t leave out OMD’s notable work from this year’s lineup. As the Most Effective Media Agency Office of the Year, the UAE agency hit it big with its winning campaigns. Nivea’s “Girls Got Game,” executed with Saatchi & Saatchi Middle East, bagged a Gold in Personal Care, a Silver in Branded Content & Entertainment, and 2 Bronze in the Marketing Disruptor and Personal Care categories. Saleh Ghazal, CEO of OMD MENA, said, “This award is a result of the efforts put in by our teams across all the 11 markets, working day and night to deliver to our client’s expectations. I also think that we are on stage today because of our clients, because of their mentality and the way they operate. This wouldn’t be possible without them.”
When asked about his expectations for the night, Executive Director for Marketing & Communications at the UAE Government Media Office Khaled AlShehhi replied, “I am ready for the stage,” and he wasn’t kidding. Two meal courses later, AlShehhi took to the stage to receive the special category Marketer of the Year Award. “Winning at the Effies is hard enough; getting a personal accolade is particularly special. Orchestrating award-winning work is not enough for this recognition. To deserve this, we’ve needed to show excellence in strategy, innovation, and positive impact. I am thrilled that efforts from our team have been recognized. Here at the Effies, nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing our region being recognized. If I am here today, it is because of my team, and I’d like to thank them for standing by my side,” he said.
As the night unfolded, excellent work from TBWA\Raad was also saluted, taking over the Performance Marketing category with campaigns for KFC and Nissan that bagged a Silver and a Bronze respectively. The agency also took home more Bronze for Nissan’s “70 Years of Conquering” and for feminist NGO M.A.L.I’s “Ending Virginity Tests” campaigns. Tourist and vacation destination Yas Island had its moment of glory too with a Gold for its “Stayin on Yas” campaign in the E-commerce category while “Chief Island Officer” took 2 Silver in the E-commerce and Travel, Tourism, and Transportation categories. “This recognition just inspires us to do more in the future. ‘Stayin' on Yas’ was one of the projects we worked on during the pandemic. It was very brave in the way that the song was curated. It brought entertainment value that was still missing in the scene at that time. It just encouraged people to have fun and make the best of their time off, attracting engagement on all fronts,” explained Badr Bourji, Vice President for Marketing - Yas Island at Experience Hub.
Saudi telecommunications giant STC, with Wunderman Thompson Riyadh as the lead agency, also made quite an impression, taking home a total of six awards. One campaign that stood out was “The Unexpected Reroute,” grabbing 2 Silver in the Media Idea and Media Innovation categories along with a Bronze in Internet and Telecom. Its “Redeem Freedom” and “5G Heroes – The Comeback” campaign bagged a Silver each, while “Meet Sarha” received a Bronze.
New entrants in the industry didn’t fail to leave a mark either. Influencer marketing platform Brand Ripplr took home its first-ever Effie trophy, a Bronze for the campaign “Do More Than Dishes” for its client Finish. Creative independent agency Code8 also made its grand debut with a Silver in the Snacks & Desserts category for Galaxy’s “Join the Family of Generosity.” Other winners included David Buenos Aires with a Gold, Hill+Knowlton Strategies with a Bronze, and V4 Advertising with 2 Silver for its “Ramadan Through Children’s Eyes” campaign with LEGO.
Keeping the best for last, the announcement of the Grand Prix gripped the audience with anticipation. The UAE Government Media Office’s “The Warm Winter Livestream,” which had been awarded 3 Gold in the Brand Integration & Entertainment Partnerships, Government & Public Service, and Influencer Marketing categories, as well as a Silver in Social Media, took home the black beauty. Commenting on the campaign’s winning streak, AlShehhi told Communicate, “Black is most certainly the new gold! The Effies have always held a special place in my heart. Rewarding ideas that work, they truly encapsulate what marketing ought to be about. The competition is fierce, and the standards are very high. So, to go on stage and accept the only Grand Prix given on the night is quite surreal. It’s hugely gratifying, and, for the team and partners involved in ‘The Warm Winter Livestream’ campaign, an astounding recognition, and validation of their talent. It also serves as an inspiration for us to push even harder, to dream even bigger, and to achieve even more, with the belief that we can. It’s all about stepping forward and being counted. It’s about making a difference.”
Take a look at the MENA Effie Awards 2022 Winners List here.
This article was published in Communicate's latest print issue - Q4 2022.