JWT’s Basel Jumaa knows a few things about Jordanian creativity. The now ECD has been in the country ever since his late teens and has seen its creativity become the force that it now is. Driven by a largely younger population, music, art and individuality is being celebrated in the country now more than ever.
To hear more about this, Basel’s early days in Syria and more on his favourite campaign, LBB’s Natasha Patel caught up with him.
LBB> Tell us about your childhood and early years in Syria, was creativity a big part of your life?
Basel> Being born in Damascus, and living there till the age of 17, I can say that I had an inspiring childhood. After all, Damascus is well known for its art and crafts, from glassblowing, arabesque and woodcraft all the way to unique architecture. The rich culture of the city had a huge influence in growing my interest in the arts and everything creative. TV commercials were also big in the ‘90s. I was even casted for a few. At school, I remember always sketching and doodling on my school books. In my later teenage years, I took a summer job in a design studio and loved it! From that day, I was hooked.
LBB> After studying graphic design, your first role was at Y&R in Jordan, what was the experience like?
Basel> It was hectic, overwhelming, and challenging, which is why I loved it. It fuelled my curiosity and lit my passion. I learned teamwork, hard work, commitment and above all, patience.
LBB> You’ve based your career in Jordan because it's a 'raw market with lots of potential', what does this mean for you?
Basel> Jordan is a relatively small country with big ambitions. Most of the businesses are local. We get the opportunity to partner with SMEs and start-ups to help them realise their vision right from the get-go. This is what inspires me. Every project, although might be small in scale, can have big impact. To be part of shaping the market is beyond motivating.
LBB> How would you categorise Jordan's creative scene and what is driving communications?
Basel> I personally believe the creative scene in Jordan is booming. The population is youthful and young people are very expressive. Today, we celebrate creativity in all its forms, whether music, art and/or design. For me, the best part is that communication is driven by authenticity, inspiration and culture.
LBB> What impact did the pandemic have on this?
Basel> No one can deny the pandemic’s harsh emotional and financial effects on everyone. On the other hand, I believe it had a positive impact on creativity. It pushed our creative limits, whether by bringing us closer together or forcing us to collaborate virtually. We had no choice but to adapt and constantly find solutions. As for brands, they had a bigger role to play, beyond selling products. Digital became a must, not a luxury or add on.
LBB> Tell us about the Life Saving captcha campaign for Red Crescent?
Basel> Red Crescent wanted to educate Jordan’s youth on first aid through the medium they spend most of their time on, online. We noticed that most popular websites in Jordan use CAPTCHA to verify that the user is human. Instead of the user being asked to identify distorted numbers and letters, we created a meaningful CAPTCHA using real first aid tips. First aid principles were simplified into three word sentences, which are easy to use in the verification process, and are also easy for internets user to remember. This simple idea contributed to educating a large segment of society.
LBB> The Um Khaled campaign for Toyota is so clever, where did the idea for it come from?
Basel> The idea came from a simple local insight: in Jordan, we love to haggle. We still believe that no matter how good the offer is, we can still get a better deal by haggling. We also all grew up knowing the simple fact that moms are the best hagglers out there, hands down.
So, we created Um Khaled, a relatable and relentless mother figure who haggled Toyota on behalf of Jordanians to get the best deals on their cars.
LBB> Where do you think creativity in Jordan is heading and how much of an impact does digital have on it?
Basel> Today and tomorrow is all about creativity in all its forms, and Jordan is embracing that big time thanks to the digital movement. Digital platforms provided the perfect space to express, and the ultimate source to learn from. Thanks to this, Jordan is now called the Silicon Valley of the Middle East.
LBB> Outside of work, what do you do to unwind?
Basel> I’m a regular gamer, but not hardcore. I also have an art studio where I spend time sculpting and occasionally playing with colours.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Basel> To all young creative enthusiasts, my advice is to be brave and don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Be patient and don’t rush the process.