A day in the life of Walid Kanaan

With over 23 years of advertising experience across the Middle East and North Africa, Walid has worked on hundreds of multinational and regional brands. He is Chief Creative Officer at TBWARAAD UAE.

Let’s start. What time do you wake up?  What does your morning routine look like?
I travel so much that my alarm and morning routines really depend on my location. But, for the most part, my day starts at 7:30 AM with 30 minutes in bed checking my iPhone (bad habit I know), then a hygiene break, followed by a small breakfast.

What is a typical day for you?  How do you balance your responsibilities and manage your time?
You never have a typical day in advertising. That’s why I love it so much. Every day has a new idea, a new challenge, a new prospect…and new sets of emails and briefs to answer.

Tell us something that not many people know about you?
I love graphic novels and comics, and that’s what got me into advertising – indirectly, of course. I’m also a big fan of Arsenal, Dortmund and the French national football team (weird combination I know). I’ve been a water polo player for the past 30 years – and, yes, it’s the toughest sport on earth.

Where do you get your inspiration from?
From culture. From the books I read, the movies I watch, the places I visit, the ads I see… culture is my fuel, and I believe it’s any creative’s fuel.

But, for me, the real magic happens when I dive into the pool: that split second underwater washes out everything and transports me into another dimension…it’s like a rebirth.

How do you get your team inspired?
By challenging them constantly and reminding them that they are as good as their last idea.
I love sending our talent to creative festivals and workshops and exposing them to global content. But I also encourage them not to sacrifice their weekends… I need them to recharge their inspiration constantly, outside the office, too.

Tell us the name of a person in the creative industry that you admire?
Too many icons in our industry, but I have a personal admiration for the Apple legacy that Lee Clow created, and I strongly believe that the brand’s success relies tremendously on the impact of its early advertising campaigns.

What did you learn from Cannes Lions this year? Did you see any trends in the work?
I spent most of my time in a dark room, looking at the best of the best in the Entertainment category. I learned many things: how a group of diverse creatives analyse the same idea differently, how watching a piece of content that lasts more than an hour can be truly engaging, and that, at the end of the day, the power of an idea can cross boundaries and cultures. 

What is the most fascinating thing about the MENA region?
The stories it carries. I believe that we have a lot of rich, insightful stories in our region; stories that inspire the world, stories that impact societies and change them. Two examples that come to my mind are the Nissan #SheDrives campaign, which exposed Saudi women breaking a longstanding taboo and driving for the first time with their special instructors, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi Highway Gallery that transformed a boring desert ride into one of the most engaging and exciting journeys.

What does Dubai Lynx mean to you?
I strongly believe that our creative industry needs to constantly celebrate ideas that are truly making an impact and instigating change. Shows like Dubai Lynx are essential platforms for passionate talent (and rising stars) to get exposed and recognised through their disruptive concepts. It’s also an opportunity for brands and clients to get clarity on their creative performance and react accordingly. It is a much needed “breath of fresh air” in our industry.

How are you preparing for 2019? What do you see as the creative challenges and opportunities that we’re facing?
More disruption. More bravery. And definitely more rand stories.

We are facing plenty of challenges, mainly financial ones. But creativity always prevails, and no excuse on earth should force us to settle for average mediocrity. We need to continue doing the “brave thing” and not the right thing.

And finally, could you give us a piece of advice for ambitious people looking to thrive and become more creative? 
Stay hungry. Be courageous. And be disruptive all the way.