10 Questions with - Ben Knight - Global Creative Lead, MullenLowe Open

13th February 2018

After spending three years in advertising and creative recruitment, Its fair to say I’ve seen the advertising landscape change quite a bit and have learnt a huge amount in both recruitment and the creative world which has helped me grow personally and professionally.

Creative recruitment has really opened my eyes to looking at things from a different point of view, for example what goes into making an award winning TVC or integrated campaign. I was lucky enough to attend some of the talks at Dubai Lynx last year (2017) and one that stood out to me was the case study on “We’re the Superhumans” 2016 campaign for Rio Paralympics, by Channel 4. Finding out what went into making this campaign great was enlightening. (Link below)

After a tough 2017, I wanted to get the opinion from someone with a number of years working in the region as a top creative.

I had a great chat with Ben Knight, Global Creative Lead – MullenLowe Open, to get his view on creative in the region;

Q.             Hi Ben, first and foremost….How is the new job going at MullenLowe Open?

A.             The new job is going well thank you. Mullenlowe Open has a great challenger mentality and it is a refreshing change to go back to building an agency in the region from scratch again. It has given me a new zest for life and I am looking forward to the years to come.

Q.             Now that we have turned our back on 2017, what positives can you take from the tough year we had?

A.             2017 was a tough year financially for all but it is during these times that creativity really comes to the forefront. When budgets are tight, you have to think in new ways to achieve your targets and goals. The up coming awards season will hopefully demonstrate this.

Q.             What campaign, global and regional stood out for you in 2017?

A.             Globally Burger King produced some great campaigns again and my personal favourite was Bullying Jnr. This is a great and simple stunt idea that captured imaginations across the world. On a regional level it is much harder to pin point one campaign of 2017 so I think credit should be given to the Classic Partnership for their Medcare campaign, footnote for the breast. It was regionally relevant, simple and has won recognition at major international award shows throughout 2017/18. 

Q.             How do you see the creative landscape within the region changing over the next 12-18months?

A.             I hope it goes from strength to strength! The past few years has seen the flourishing of the creative industry in our region. I think financial strain will make agencies and clients work harder for every dollar they spend and in my opinion, this is where great creativity wins over style with no substance.

Q.             We are experiencing a high number of creative applications at the moment for the region, what do you look for when reviewing candidates portfolio’s?

A.             Ideas, ideas, ideas. You can coach craft, you can perfect skill but the natural ability to look at problems in ways that nobody else does is not so easy to teach. Give me a room of dreams over a room of technically proficient creatives any day of the week. Showcase your thinking, that is invaluable to any agency or client.

Q.             For any creative candidates looking to move to the Middle East, what is the best advice you would give them when looking for job?

A.             Don’t go for the money, go for the work. It is not hard to get a ‘job’ here, it is hard to create a worthwhile career. Research the market, select your ideal places and go for them. 

Q.             What do you love and hate about your 10 years in the region?

A.             I love the challenge, every day. It is always different and just when you think you have got it under control, something comes along and surprises you again. I hate the fact that our region is still not given the recognition for its creativity on a global scale. In the past 10 years I have had the privilege of work with some amazingly talented young individuals and ultimately created the best work of my career.

Q.             How have you seen the creative industry change over the last 10 years you have been here?

A.             Our region has moved at 100mph from a purely adaptive and media centric region to one that is finding it’s unique style and creative voice. The change in perception of the creative industries has helped and I see many more young home grown talents coming through. 10 years ago this was seen as a market for has-been creatives who came to see out their last years Tax Free, now it is becoming a go-to place for young talent to accelerate their growth and grab opportunities that they would never get in their home countries.

Q.             What stand out challenges have you faced in finding top creative talent in the region since moving here?

A.             The challenge of finding home-grown talent is always tough. The creative industries have not historically been seen as suitable careers for young people from the region. This is shifting slowly and if more agencies would be willing to invest time in the young generation coming through locally then I think the challenge would not be so great.

Q.             What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A.             The most rewarding part of my job is seeing young creatives grow into strong creative leaders. I feel immense pride when I see my ex-creatives go on to bigger and better opportunities. It means I must be doing something right.

Looking forward to a positive and exciting future with MCG&Co