10 questions with Tahaab Rais

Head of Insights & Strategic Planning, FP7/DXB, Dubai

Go for nervous and be noticed. Safe should not be a strategy.Tahaab Rais


1. What are your top three criteria when deciding if a campaign is successful?

  1. The Purpose: Why does this campaign exist? What is the reason for its being that should make me care about it, watch it, judge it?
  2. The Execution: How was it brought to life? How did it engage, entertain and resonate with people?
  3. The Impact: What did it change? How did it make lives better, richer, happier?

2.What are your favorite campaigns of all time?

Too many to pick from or list down! My love for advertising grew watching great work done across the decades. Now, if I had to pick some of my favorite campaigns, I'd go for the ones that gave the world a new idea, a new belief, a new attitude. And made a lasting impact on the brand/subject.

  • Apple 'Think Different'
  • Adidas 'Impossible is Nothing' - The Muhammad Ali series
  • The Nike work: Nike+, Nike FuelBand, Live for Greatness
  • Channel 4 Paralympics - Meet the Superheroes
  • MasterCard's Priceless (the very first series of ads)
  • Coca-Cola's Overseas Filipino Workers Project
  • Volkswagen Think Small
  • Earth Hour

In terms of sheer executional impact, there are many more including the likes of Bing's Decode Jay-Z, Old Spice 'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like', Burger King's 'The Subservient Chicken' (which I spent hours playing with as a kid). I could go on…!

3. Do you have any advice for our entrants?

Tell the truth! As George Orwell wrote, "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." And brands that do so, are daring, are noticed and become famous.

Based on the truth, show how the brands have 'actvertised' (not just advertised). Show how the truth has been told creatively, and how creativity has been unleashed to change lives, to influence people positively.

4. How has the definition of success for advertising campaigns changed over the years?

Success is defined by people today. Brands are no longer content being 'well-known'. Today, 'Fame' and 'Love' from people, are the desired currency for brands. And as a result, success is no longer just about marketing ROI, but about social ROI. And by that I don't mean just social media. Creativity needs to make a brand social—get people caring about brands, wanting to befriend/follow the brands, wanting to talk more about the brands. Brands, therefore, need to be remarkable—worth being remarked about. These days, success is about measuring a brand's 'heartbeat'. And that's a fantastic win-win for the people who are the eventual consumers of these brands.

5. What’s the biggest campaign challenge you’ve faced?

Ambition and the feeling of 'nervous' that comes with it are everyday challenges. I'll also admit that agencies must do their due diligence in proposing ideas and work that can actually be made to work – beyond proposals and presentations. It's an era of big ideas. The people whom we try and target everyday are ready for bold ideas and creative innovation. The real challenge is for brands and agencies to accept that fact, do their sanity checks, go for nervous and be noticed. Safe should not be a strategy.

6. What, in your opinion, is the number-one mistake to avoid when creating an AME entry?

Not telling the truth. The jury is comprised of people who have written many case studies and entries. And they know, from that experience, what's real and what's not. Hence, it is not advisable, for instance, to 'create' objectives from the eventual results, as it becomes fairly obvious that the story is then manufactured.

7. What can a small market entry do to compete with one from a large market?

As it's often said, Small is the new Big. Markets, which are smaller, can actually have an enormous impact through the sheer size of their ambition behind their work. It's about work that influences people, both locally and globally, through the scale of its ambition, not the size of its market. It's about showing their passion for innovation and their determination for big Ideas, for bold Ideas that have created a big, positive impact for the people in their market.

8. Which aspect of the AME Awards made you interested in judging?

I was very interested in seeing work from the region and from the world that finds its source in a real human truth, has a significant cultural and economic relevance, and actually changes behavior. The AME Awards acknowledges and recognizes effective work based on strong insights and creativity—it's the kind of work I enjoy watching and working on, everyday.

9. How do you feel regional judging and maintaining an international jury affect the outcome of a competition?

The regional judging lends the expertise and knowledge when it comes to the local/regional nuggets, truths and insights that trigger behavioral change sought by the brands. It's important to select work that's made an impact in the local and regional markets in a culturally positive way. We live in a world where everyone's connected, and where ideas are contagious. The international judging, therefore, provides the filter of how universally appealing the idea can be, how even though an idea may stem from a country/region, it can actually go global and holds the potential to impact beyond its initial area of being.

10. What do you consider the value of an AME Award to a winner?

Creativity without results is art. Winners of the AME Award are the ones who successfully combine a real challenge, a real human truth with exceptional creativity, unique executional techniques to bring fame, love and revenue for brands. Add to that the panel of judges who have created as well as have worked on several effective campaigns. Therefore, it is a coveted award, as the winners would've proven how goals and objectives were achieved through solid strategic planning and brilliant creative execution.

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