Why Businesses In The Arab World Are Measuring Creativity All Wrong

Art and creativity have always been subjective. What some may conceive a masterpiece, others may perceive as child’s play. It is not a cliché—beauty is literally in the eye of the beholder. It is this subjectivity that makes it so hard to put a price tag
on creativity.

Running my video production company in the UAE has always been an interesting challenge. Most clients and companies you meet are often afraid of experimenting. This is unlike Europe, where the brief often is to come up with something different, innovative, or just something they haven’t seen before.

In the GCC, most of our initial client interactions start with the customer asking to see the videos we produced for other companies. Once they are assured, the next thing they want “is a film just like that one.”

On other occasions, clients would share with us a video they like and declare that their job is done. 

Furthermore, discussions on what these videos can cost can vary dramatically depending on the idea, the technique, the team, the locations, the cast, the equipment and so on.

But I have also been recently exposed to an all-new system of finding what price is right for such creative projects.

The sales conversion cycle for a high-end corporate film can sometimes be quite long. After almost a year of discussions, meetings, creative treatments and negotiations with a prospective client, we were informed that our proposal was now moving into the hands of procurement. “Great,” I said, feeling confident that we were close. A challenging, stubborn discussion with procurement heads is par for the course in this region.

The next day, we received an email with details of an online portal to register on. Again, all normal, I thought. 

Then a phone call. “Just checking you received the details to submit your bid,” they said.  I confirmed that I had and would upload my proposal before the designated deadline.

“No, we need you to be live online at 2 PM to submit your bid,” said the procurement officer. I confirmed I would, although it seemed very odd that I needed to be online at a set time.  The clock struck two and I logged on to submit my bid.    

We were ranked number one early on. But soon, we were notified that our bid had dropped to number two with a timer counting down the minutes for us to submit our counter bid. 

It had become apparent that I was now bidding against a competitor in an online auction for a project. Call it ignorance, but I have never come across such a process for a creative project before in my sixteen plus years in this industry. 

At what point did the creative process become a commodity that you could bid for in an online auction? Given the number of variables mentioned earlier, not to mention the creative idea itself, the mere idea that a video project could be awarded through an online auction is truly absurd. 

My experience definitely left me questioning the future for those in the creative field in this market. I believe it is up to the creative industry to band together to ensure that companies are educated on the importance of creating something unique, which represents their brand,  and which cannot be measured purely by numbers.

To the managers and CEOs out there—whilst I understand the need to get the best bang for your buck, forcing the creative person down a road, where one can only win by squeezing the pockets, is not going to result in the best outcome. As far as I am concerned, you can never put a price on creativity.