Notes from the Jury: Tahaab Rais

By Alixandra Rutnik on Apr 17, 2020

“We need to move beyond seeing data only from the point-of-view of targeting people, to actually helping people live more meaningful and happier lives.”


Judging for The One Show 2020 and the ADC 99th Annual Awards was just about to begin, with hundreds of creatives from all across the globe coming to New York and Puerto Rico for several weeks of deciding the most Pencil and Cube-worthy work of the past year.

COVID-19 had other plans.

Never ones to be deterred, we at The One Club for Creativity quickly put together a course of action that allowed for the majority of the submissions to be debated and discussed online, while a small group of New York-based creatives viewed work in person. Our goal has been to maintain the integrity of our two main awards while erring on the side of safety, and our phenomenal judges have been more than accommodating.

Each year, we like to share some of the judges' views coming out of the various jury rooms. This year, however, those rooms are more likely to be virtual.

Tahaab Rais, Regional Head of Strategy & Truth Central (MENAT) at FP7/MCCANN in Dubai, shares his views with us on the Pandemic, the future of data, and most importantly, judging The One Show 2020 Creative Use of Data discipline.


It’s hard to say this but it’s almost like our world has evolved into being able to deal with this whole pandemic very well– however, humanity was definitely not designed to social distance for this long– how are you coping?

Seeing aerial-view videos of empty Dubai streets gives me goosebumps! It’s eerie. We have to credit the government out here for doing a commendable job in ensuring people stay home and stay safe.

This is an unprecedented time in our history and one that we’ll remember. Everyone I know, in Dubai and abroad, has been affected emotionally, physically, financially, and socially by COVID-19. It’s something we’ve all had to get on with, haven’t we?

But when we get through this, and we will, we must remember what we’ve learned from this phase in our lives. It has given us an opportunity to reset, to reflect, and to hopefully come out better– as individuals, as communities, as countries, as an industry– because of the worst.

Never before in history have we been able to collect so much data about consumers, about our competitors, about our markets... Since you're judging the Creative Use of Data discipline, what would you say is the key to making the best use of that mountain of data?

“Data kills creativity.” “Creativity without data is ineffective.” We’ve all heard that and wondered why both have to get pitted against each other and why they couldn’t just get along.

Truth is, in a new data economy, there’s a new hierarchy of people’s needs (when it comes to why they will share their data) that brands need to be cognizant of, because people’s data is their currency. Some know it, some don’t, and that opens up new possibilities for brands and agencies. So, we need to move beyond seeing data only from the point-of-view of targeting people, to actually helping people live more meaningful and happier lives.

As a result, there will be innumerable opportunities for us to humanize data through a confluence of meaning and analysis. I’m really excited to see more dates, more marriages, and more babies between creativity and data– beyond smart uses of data in targeting people.

On the flip side of things, the public is also more aware of the sheer amount of data that is collected about them, and that can lead to some skepticism and even fear– we can all relate to the experience of talking to a friend about something, and then seeing ads for that same thing in your Instagram feed. How do we as advertisers allay those fears (or do we)?

Gosh, that does freak a lot of people out, doesn’t it?!

Look, I’ve always believed that one’s data is one’s property and privilege. As brands and advertisers, we need to be responsible in how we get people’s data (important) and how we use that data (also important). There are only two ways, really, in which one can do that– you get people to share their data willingly with you or you source it without their direct permission.

As in any healthy relationship, it comes down to the principle of ‘give and take.’ People have been found to be willing to share the data they want to give with brands, provided they know what that data is going to be used for and what’s the value in it for them– they’re thinking, “what am I getting from this brand by giving my data to them?” Hence, in being open, in seeking permission, in ensuring privacy, in being accountable for misuse, and in sharing the value people will get out of it, brands can be trusted more with people’s data.

"In being open, in seeking permission, in ensuring privacy, in being accountable for misuse, and in sharing the value people will get out of it, brands can be trusted more with people’s data."

Among the entries that you have viewed so far, what is notably “trendy” this year in the creative use of data discipline?

It has been inspiring to see many examples of humanizing data and giving people real value from their data. So, I’m excited to judge the shortlists and reward the work that does that– work that's more meaningful, more impactful, and has a more long-term vision to drive effectiveness.

What types of things were you hoping to see this year that you did not see enough of in The One Show?

The biggest value in having award shows is to set a precedence and a benchmark in terms of the kind of work that needs to be done by the industry, by recognizing work that agencies have done for a brand or an organization to solve its problems in the real world (not just in case study videos).

While we have seen many funky applications of data in fuelling creativity and many interesting ways to target people using data, I would’ve loved to have seen more work that used data, firstly, to drive a real world impact, and secondly (and crucially), as part of a long-term strategy to show real world returns (vs. a short-term quick win).

On the flipside of COVID– what do you think will be the next best move for start-ups?

It’s a challenging time for start-ups, for sure. Many of these startups, that raised a lot of money forecasting rapid growth, have found demand drying up as consumer spending stalls and unemployment is set to surge. The lack of cash is making it difficult to get through until the end of the year.

But, in this environment there are opportunities too for those who think fast and act faster– governments, worldwide, have called on the help of start-ups, especially in the technology industry, in so many aspects. They need the help of companies that are at the cutting edge of their field, that are creative, and that can act and react quickly. Therefore, it’s a critical time for founders as there’s no better opportunity to raise the money they need to grow their business, by looking at anxieties people and communities face and coming up with solutions for those.

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