Hype magazine has been a bastion of Dubai Nightlife for most of my time in the Middle East. Its pages describe a positive, perhaps more realistic portrait of Dubai Life than pearly botoxed, eye-bleeding Charity events, unbuttoned COOs pouring bonuses into sparkler-flaming Cavalli glasses… Nope. On a weekly basis, Hype printed the faces and voices of thousands of aspirational, multinational revellers, burning the candle at both ends; earnest, ambitious and optimistic, and very rarely with a toe on the property ladder.
Hype championed authentic, miscellaneous, organic creative troupes, from trust-fund-free designers to desert-appropriate sports fiends, one-off projects, new movements and a broadening art scene wholly unaffiliated with money laundering. Its pages were a very genuine picture of the lifestyle that’s kept me and many others rooted here in a city that is emerging and growing and changing all the time.
Hype became a brand apart from the magazine, with a colossal annual party in the park, and an anticipated annual awards ceremony, followed by the annual worst-hangover-of-the-year. But for some excruciating reason, the grey-haired men at the top table decided that ‘Online’ was not an appropriate platform for Hype’s sought-after demographic. So Hype stayed analog. And while its target-market burgeoned, and its content standards stayed high, it became another victim of the downturn in publishing across the Middle East.
Despite a passionately-fierce editor steering a talented team, with banging design and a much-loved presence, Hype as we know it is waving goodbye. It’s waving on rollerskates with a G&T in hand to the backdrop of a neon sunset and pounding bass… but it’s goodbye nonetheless.
And despite driving the team insane with my later-than-last-minute, seriously-maddy-sort-it-out submissions and technical ineptitude, I was thrilled to be asked to contribute. And now the only way to document my pieces for posterity? Online.
Here’s a run-down of what I got up to in Hype in the last two years. I’m missing quite a few because my inbox, desktop and state-of-mind are currently a landfill. And for Hype… and her epic team, I wish them every success, wherever they head to next.. They deserve it.
The TVC we made for Infiniti in April ended up on the world’s biggest, longest LCD screen, in Saudi Arabia’s Kingdom Tower, Riyadh (adorned with lazers…).
The Saudis enjoyed the show, and Infiniti asked us how else we could say “Inspired Performance” in lights.
First, we looked into using stunt-drivers to create a choreographed light-writing illustration, filming from a rigged camera on long exposure. Our colleague Ian found a video for Red Bull, of surfboards rigged with LEDs, choreographed by Light Painter Patrick Rochon and Producer Evan Jones. If we used Infiniti’s own cars, carefully rigged, they could be the tools for an Inspired Performance too.
We did not want to create an ad. We wanted to create a piece of art – original content that used cars in a beautiful, brand new way. And we wanted film as much as photography. The Red Bull tape proved we could have both.
Patrick and Evan were on board from day one, and while Patrick concentrated on how beautiful the cars could look, both still and on the move, Evan set about rigging the cars and putting the tools in motion, as well as gathering a team of some of North America’s most talented videographers, each willing to spend a month living together without fiances and girlfriends, for 16-hour-days in a garage in the sandpit.
We spent eight months making it happen, and three nights filming the results. We sold something that had never been done before to a brave client in a not-so-brave region, laid down how it would translate across all channels, and re-sold it to the global bosses. Everyone went out on a limb, and it was worth it.
Local ad-folks called it ‘as pointless as Top Gear’, said it didn’t “sell the functionality of the car”. That, to me, is the biggest compliment of all. Much of this region’s output is still crippled by ‘Ads’ that must point out exactly their intent – even when it’s something as benign as a product identifying with the moods of ‘Happiness’ or ‘being playful’.
The ad shops and lean-mean-fighting-machines of the UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the USA, New Zealand, South Africa and Singapore have been leaving the big old behemoth agencies wading in their wake for ten years now, creating branded content worth sharing. What protects these big agencies now is their ability to handle giant corporate clients and all the global paperwork that this entails. And in that respect, TBWA gave us a unique opportunity to create excitement with a global brand, but with both this project and ‘Chromatic’, to behave as young guns while we did it.
The Middle East got the hang of stunts three months before Awards Season, but we still enjoy ‘cool content’ – and want more Tiger Translates, Fred Perry Originals, Puma Socials, Perrier Awards, Adidas Originals; more instigation of creativity across the spectrum, that involves, and doesn’t force the USP down our throats.
I’m very proud to have been a part of this project, and the one that’s come after it… Watch this space.
Like any Ad Creative, I work an average 11 hours a day, and at least two weekend days a month.
I calculated that this career choice, albeit in an industry of established long hours, means, in terms of average hours across the board, working two extra months of the year. It means a lot less time time doing things that allow us to be inspired or genuinely ‘creative.’
Ideas, images, copy and tasks that engage, are not a switch that can be flicked on or off. The nature of this job means I can’t turn up at work and simply type typey. Sure, there are tricks, tools, triggers, but if you’re pushing out, and pushing out, and not taking in, you’ll get stale and eventually run out of steam. The Media One Wall of Fame is the Middle East’s biggest painted-portrait project by one single painter. Me.
It’s 14 3-metre-tall, hand-painted portraits of global Dance-Music heroes; Pharrell, Frankie Knuckles, Gilles Peterson, Osunlade, Daft Punk, Jeff Mills, Jocelyn Brown, Diplo, Maya Jane Coles, Rickie Hawtin, Black Coffee and Annie Mac. Painted at night, during August in the desert, for 7 or 8 hours every weekday after work, for 5 weeks, and 30+ hours at weekends. I slept 4 or 5 hours a night, never saw my brand new fiancé, sweated, lost weight, panicked, undercharged, snapped at engineering staff. And loved it. It was all worth it.
Ultimately, the satisfaction, sense of achievement, and autonomy told me I needed to quit my day job. This was a huge piece of positive communication – what I’ve always wanted to do in Advertising too. The 11-hour-days pushing out ideas in the office were not a patch on making something happen with my own hands. As a result of the Wall of Fame, with a good friend, Clare Napper, I’m about to start up an ‘engagement agency’. It will not be TVCs, Prints or traditional advertising. It will be reaching out to, talking to and understanding individuals, groups and networks, with the universal languages of positivity, art and humour. Ultimately saying something big, bright and cool. Something interesting. Watch this space. And a few others too. We have big things planned.
I’m in a Dubai Funk band called Funk Konstruction, and this is it. Really pleased to have the opportunity to play with these folks; talented, experienced and passionate musicians from the Philippines, Pakistan and Egypt, who each love jamming, making new tunes, and adding a smattering of funk and soul to the desert. Have a listen on this link below and tell us what you think!
I’m under a ‘Dragonmart’ ban. Not outright damnation, but I’m not allowed to bring home unnecessary ‘weirdshit’ from the Beijing Outpost 30 minutes out of Dubai – inflatable wrestlers, replicas of wooden ship masts, 3 metre-wide painted fans, Kites… and Mannequin heads. 2-foot bald mannequin heads with a listless, snooty look.
Dragonmart’s where I met Drusilla. Patient, calm, never interrupts, a brilliant listener (although earless). She’s not bothered about who-said-what, never lets the language barrier make anyone feel awkward, (Cantonese is her native tongue), doesn’t take Selfies, instagram her breakfast, pull ‘Ghetto Fingers’ in photos, or send me Fruitloop text messages.
Her hazel eyes are permanently aloof; all-knowing albeit bored, and she’s not ashamed of her alopecia or diminutive height. Wherever she goes, she maintains poise and immaculate repose. Sure, she still smells of the plastic factory she grew up in, and when she goes for a swim, brings half the pool home, and her eyelashes need re-gluing, but she’s loyal, constant. Unperturbed.
I can’t tell you what she means. A statement about the overly hygienic aesthetic of marketing Dubai, a plea for attention, a bald, plastic embodiment of showboating ‘eccentricity’ to others, or a toy I like taking pictures of, but she’s a muse of sorts. It’s fun to see people’s eyes widen when she comes out of the bag at a barbeque. Or the people who try to determine the point, and their friends’ willingness and outright intent to suck her face, have a photo with her and parade her around the dancefloor.
Yes, it’s silly, makes no sense, has no purpose. Particularly in Dubai. But it’s Armless fun. Meet Drusilla. She does Dubai.http://instagram.com/drusilladoesdubai