Is Ramadan Celeb Marketing still effective? [Interview]

Celebrity Marketing is always at its highest during the Ramadan Superbowl season, and sadly the approach continues to be the same every year. We all know how much certain brands are willing to save all year for a shot of having dozens of celebrities in one ad spot.

It causes the question of whether mass celebrity marketing is still effective when abused, and whether it is still worth it for many brands out there.

Answering those questions is Gabriela Lungu, founder of WINGS Creative Lab. With the lab, she has been living a nomadic lifestyle, traveling from one place to another helping creatives all over the world with workshops and sessions.

With over 20 years of experience in the fields of advertising, PR and being on the client’s side, Lungu aims to introduce a model to evaluate celebrity endorsements more efficiently at this year’s Creative Industry Summit: Ramadan Edition.

We had the chance to talk with her before her talk on the 16th of September.


Being a marketing/consulting nomad must be exhausting but exciting. Have you ever visited Egypt before on your nomadic travels?

It’s a lot more exciting than exhausting for me – it’s the lifestyle I have chosen for me, combining two of the things I love most: my work and travelling. I’m very much looking forward to coming to Cairo. This is going to be my first time in Egypt and I cannot wait!


What inspired you to accept coming to Egypt for this year’s Creative Industry Summit: Ramadan Edition?

Three things:

1. meeting the organisers Mai Salama and Neamat Khalil in person at the Cannes Lions this year – they are wonderful women, very professional and very kind, and I’m certain that any event they put together is at high standards;

2. hearing about the festival and the great experience from Dana Griffin, one of the presenters from the last edition

3. [and] the opportunity to visit Egypt and Cairo of course, and get a taste of the famous local culture.


Before coming to Egypt, did you do any research on the local or MENA region marketing scene?

I know quite a bit about the MENA region. In the past I had a couple of EMEA roles, that involved overseeing also the work coming from MENA, so I got to travel to the region, meet some of the professionals here, see the work, understand the mentality, [and] etc. I’ve also had the honour to be part of the Dubai Lynx jury a few times – I was a jury member for PR, Integrated, as well as Young Lynx, and in 2014 I was the Chair of the Dubai Lynx PR Jury. Those experiences gave me an even deeper understanding of the quality of the work and the talent in the region.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that I know well the Egyptian market; I did a bit of research, particularly linked to my topic.

Still I’m not coming to Cairo to tell Egyptians about their own market – I wouldn’t dare; many of the speakers are locals, so I’m certain that they will bring those types of insights.

What I want to do is to bring the international perspective, the global trends, food for thought with the aim of inspiring the local professionals.


Could you tell us a bit more about your topic, the Use of Celebrities?

From the very beginnings of brand communications, celebrities have been a well-established marketing strategy. But celebrity endorsement, like any other strategy, needs to be approached carefully and utilised effectively in order to reap the full benefits, especially today, when social media made it possible for many more people to develop a relevant voice and use it to influence others.

So what is celebrity endorsement done right in today’s age? My session explores the key dos and don’ts of brand-celebrity collaboration in the digital era.


Celebrity Marketing is seen so differently by the PR and Advertising industries. As someone who has worked in both, could you explain how do you think both sides see it?

I personally don’t see strategic differences, just tactical ones. The ultimate goal is the same; only the methods differ, as the two disciplines employ different techniques in their approach. Great campaigns use both advertising and PR techniques, complementary, to achieve the marketing objectives and maximise the brand-celebrity partnership.


Ramadan in Egypt is famous for being the high season for celebrity marketing and appearances in ads. Some campaigns can have a dozen of celebrities in one ad spot. What do you think about this Ramadan trend?

This excessive use of celebrities is precisely the reason I chose this topic for my speech in Cairo. I think that a good part of this practice is rooted in the local culture – people from this region are far less cynical about celebrities than those in other markets, particularly in the Western culture. But it’s not that uncommon – I’ve seen similar attitudes in India for example.

I also think that some of it is simply lazy and conservative marketing. Celebrity endorsement is such a well-known, usual, standard, conventional strategy. It’s comfortable to use, easy to explain, [and] quite predictable in results.

Finding a different and equally (if not more) effective strategy to stand out in the crowded Ramadan ad space is a lot more difficult; it requires innovation, creativity, and risk. As it seems, fewer and fewer local marketers are taking this risk.

I will share during the session my WINGS’ model to evaluate celebrity endorsement. I’m curious what people in the audience will say – how many of those ads that you mentioned would actually pass the WINGS evaluation with flying colours…


Have you followed any of the Egyptian campaigns, Ramadan or otherwise?

I know some of the most famous ones, awarded internationally. I hope I’ll get up to speed in Cairo.


What Ramadan marketing trends are you interested in?

I know that Ramadan is the local super bowl; if not even more important, as more than 50 million people watch the Ramadan ads every evening for a month, not just one day. So I’m interested in everything. I’m very curious to see what the other experts will share.


So, tell us a little bit about your new nomadic consultancy, Wings: Creative Leadership Lab

WINGS Creative Leadership Lab flies worldwide to help companies from the worlds of advertising, PR, digital & social, marketing, media and beyond elevate their creativity and drive creative excellence through training, workshops, sprints and uplifting talks.

WINGS’ motto is “We rise by lifting others” (the words of a teacher, public speaker and defender of education, Robert G. Ingersoll).

There is currently little on offer for companies looking for support to elevate their creativity organisation-wide, and turn their best creative people into proper creative leaders. What there is, is rarely specific to the creative sector, concentrated in only a couple of global hubs like London for example, often too theoretical, very expensive and can involve a significant amount of time away from the office.

As a consequence, creative leadership development can often become reserved for just a few people, usually the most senior leaders of larger organisations, or from bigger markets, who can afford it. It also happens a little too late for most people, after years of stumbling through the everyday challenges.

I’ve founded WINGS because I want to democratise creative leadership consultancy so that more people, from more markets and organisations, can take wing with confidence, at the right time. WINGS can fly everywhere. No market and no firm are too big or too small, and the sessions – short and effective – are organised right there where people live and work.


How important do you believe it is to bridge the gap between creative and leadership?


A culture of creativity led with intent and determination from the top is essential in the marketing sector, where there is a strong link between creativity and business success. And yet, in many firms there’s no clear strategic outline for it. Very few companies have an actual creative strategy, and creativity is left to chance.

In addition, while climbing up the career ladder, creatives become experts at their craft, but often don’t properly develop their leadership skills at the same time. This has painful consequences on their own career, the people they lead, and the organisation. “Great creative, terrible boss” is a phrase we hear too often; almost everyone has experienced the impact of poor leadership.

WINGS aims to solve these issues supporting professionals to understand the strong link between creativity, culture and leadership, and to find out the specific actions they can do.


How do you see the international creative landscape in a few years?

A lot more fragmented in terms of players. A lot more flexible in terms of work style. A lot more integrated in terms of thinking.

With data and technology embedded in everything – from insights to measurement. And with creativity and innovation as red thread. It’s very exciting.


Lastly, what are the basic steps that almost any creative could do right now to prepare for the future, if they’re ambitious for a leadership role?

  • Understand business. Commercially minded creatives, with strong business acumen, are priceless.
  • Learn in-depth more communications disciplines (advertising, PR, digital, media etc.): become a truly integrated creative.
  • Read about leadership – even before practicing leadership.
  • Put passion in everything you do. As the saying goes “There are no small parts; only small actors.”


You can listen to Lungu go more into detail on Sunday 16th of September at the Creative Industry Summit: Ramadan Edition.

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