Abu Dhabi ad grabs a Lion at Cannes

The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority's international "Be Still" TV spot has won a third place in the scriptwriting category of the annual Cannes Lions festival.

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The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority's international "Be Still" TV spot has won a third place in the scriptwriting category of the annual Cannes Lions festival, considered the Oscars of the marketing world. The Cannes Lions jury awarded the campaign, created by the TBWARAAD ad agency, with a bronze in its Film Craft category for copywriting. There were 10 other entrants, including for companies such as Land Rover. The gold went to a commercial for Singapore's ministry of community development, youth and sports. It is the first time an Abu Dhabi agency has won a prize in the competition and the first year that any Middle Eastern agency has won in the film category Described as "an honest, emotionally rich and poetic journey deep into the heart of the true Abu Dhabi welcome", the commercial competed alongside global brands such as Nike, Audi and Barclays Global. More than 23,000 of the world's best advertising campaigns were judged this year.

"It was very low-key, very subtle. It was just the director reading a poem he wrote during the film shoot, and showing the landscapes of Abu Dhabi," Claire Micheletti, the tourism authority's marketing director, said of the Abu Dhabi campaign. She noted its slow pacing and emphasis on atmosphere. The 80-second advert ran as if it were a "teaser" campaign, she added, showing only brief and closely shot clips of places such as the Yas Marina Circuit, the Corniche before dawn and Jebel Hafeet mountains, as well as time-lapsed scenes of downtown night life and a man watering a date palm in the desert near Liwa. Many of the scenes were shot with hand-held cameras.

"It wasn't your typical tourism ad," Ms Micheletti said. "Not every tourism organisation would have done that. Normally, you would shoot a beach or a hotel of some sort." Nick McElwee, the managing director of TBWARAAD, described the commercial as "intimate" when the agency could have easily gone with "the chest-beating" route. "It's a big deal," Mr McElwee said. "It's basically the Oscars of advertising."

The British director, known as Hadi, shot the footage and narrated his poem, entitled "Be Still". He wrote it during the shoot. The commercial was accompanied by ambient music and ends with the slogan: "Abu Dhabi - Travellers Welcome". "Funnily enough," Ms Micheletti said, "we looked for a professional voice-over artist, but we felt [Hadi's] voice worked the best in English. It was one of those very natural, amazing creative moments."

The beauty of the idea was in its simplicity, said Martin Lever, the agency's executive creative director. "The poetic narrative and dream-like visual treatment drives a strong emotional bond with the audience and creates anticipation of a warm and genuine welcome from a uniquely rich culture," he said. Ramzi Raad, the chairman and chief executive of TBWARAAD, said the honour was a coup for the communications industry in the region. Mubarak al Muhairi, the director general of the tourism authority, added: "This recognition is indeed a milestone for the agency and for the advertising industry in Abu Dhabi as a whole." The commercial ran on CNN, the BBC and Al Arabiya around the Christmas holidays. "Be Still" and the other winning entrants can be viewed online at the Cannes Lions website, www.canneslions.com.


The text of the poem that won third place for copywriting in an advert: Be still So you may hear the dreams of the people below "Pay no attention to the impossible," they whisper, for it does not belong here As the road rises, you find the land majestic, calm The space, the air, the breeze, the buzz, the thrill, and the back of beyond Engaging. Refuge. Home. Inviting. But never foreboding The beast's heart will pound beside ours As night crackles electric, a million promises are held Day rewards night with a perfect dawn, and dawn rewards in turn And nature rewards an inquisitive mind In a land where the impossible is defined and ignored Abu Dhabi - Travellers Welcome * Courtesy: TBWARAAD