Jad Hindy of Expo 2020 Dubai talks about the huge world innovation event that’s inviting people to take part in writing our future
BIG KAHUNA FILMS, the award-winning creative production house based in Dubai and Beirut, is proud to support creativity across the Middle East. Over the coming months, as part of our sponsorship of LBB’s United Arab Emirates, Lebanon and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia editions, we’ll be speaking to some of the great minds driving creativity forward across the region.
Expo 2020 Dubai will launch on October 1st, with the grand ambition of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. And while the event has been delayed a year, thanks to Covid-19, the technology and innovation on display is more relevant than ever. As the world tries to puzzle out what the post-pandemic reality will look like and how we will tackle the huge climate crisis and social disruption, the organisers of Expo 2020 Dubai hope that the six-month-long celebration of innovation and creativity will turn out to be something of a launchpad into the future.
Historically, world expositions have premiered world-shaping technology. Charles Babbage premiered his Analytical Engine at a World Fair, and so too did John Logie Baird demonstrate the first TV broadcast. Expo 2020 Dubai will bring together ground-breaking technology and innovative ideas, grouped into the three themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. Beneath the dazzling design and immersive experience, this Expo has been shaped around some of the biggest issues facing humanity today.
Jad Hindy is Senior Vice President, Marketing, Expo 2020 Dubai and he sees this job as a chance to give back to a place that has given so much to him. He talks to LBB’s Laura Swinton about the goals of the event and why he hopes it will inspire individuals, brands and businesses locally and around the world.
LBB> A lot of people I’ve spoken to in Dubai are really excited about the Expo – what is the feeling and response you’re getting on the ground from local people?
Jad> We have been pleased by ticket sales so far, particularly the number of Season Passes sold. The support from UAE residents and people from around the globe has been overwhelming, and reflects visitors’ understanding of the great value and diversity of – and excitement for – Expo 2020 Dubai. Tickets will open up a world of incredible experiences for visitors, which give people unlimited access to every one of Expo’s 182 days we’ll be open, our three Thematic Districts and our three flagship Thematic Pavilions, up to 60 live events a day, and much more.
LBB> It feels like Expo 2020 is coming to Dubai at a key point, when the UAE and other countries in the region are embracing technology, creativity and the post-oil future – to what extent has this idea of a crucible of change informed the Expo?
Jad> This event will be a major catalyst for Dubai and the UAE and comes at the right moment to set the tone for economic recovery and create a positive environment for businesses to thrive. Expo 2020 will spotlight breakthrough ideas, innovations and technologies that are shaping the future of our planet, and will allow all participants to build and create new collaborations, helping to spark the next generation of technology.
LBB> I’ve been really excited to see the way brands and agencies in the UAE have embraced technology and creativity. What can the rest of the world learn from the UAE when it comes to innovation?
Jad> Innovation is part of the government’s Vision 2021, which focuses on building a competitive economy. It’s impressive to see that the UAE ranked 34th globally and first regionally in the 2020 Global Innovation Index for the fifth consecutive year – this definitely cements its status as one of the world’s most innovative countries.
The timing of the Expo, which coincides with the nation’s Golden Jubilee, is crucial. Throughout its history, the UAE has shown the world what is possible through its remarkable development, enriched by its deep-rooted history of bringing people together to encourage positive change. At Expo 2020 Dubai, we want to engage people in this journey and spark innovations that will underpin the next 50 years of human progress.
LBB> In terms of marketing the Expo, can you tell us what the strategy has been?
Jad> We haven’t been immune from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused Expo 2020 Dubai’s postponement for one year. Nonetheless, it has allowed us an opportunity to improve and expand our offerings, such as fostering collaboration initiatives aimed at building a brighter, more positive and sustainable future for everyone.
Now, with just over one month to go until we open our doors to the world on October 1st, marketing is taking a leading role. We need to inspire people to come to Expo 2020 Dubai, give a real sense of its purpose and the experience it will offer, and use that message to encourage people to plan their visit before we close our doors on March 31st, 2022.
World Expos have always represented the power and impact of human inventiveness and ingenuity to overcome such challenges, and Expo 2020 Dubai will take that tradition forward with pride.
LBB> What’s the creative vision underpinning Expo 2020 Dubai?
Jad> With the world around us changing profoundly, Expo 2020 Dubai will be a crucial event that will bring the world together. It is a celebration of human spirit, resilience and optimism, and seeks to capture the world’s imagination by welcoming the best minds and the most innovative ideas from around the globe. It will also be an opportunity to supercharge international cooperation and collaboration to build the future we need.
Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, the largest event to be held in the Arab world, and it coincides with the UAE’s 50th anniversary – an important milestone for the UAE. Over the past 50 years, the UAE has impressed the world with its rapid growth and amazing achievements.
Expo 2020 Dubai wants to motivate people to carry that innovative spirit forward for another 50 years and beyond. It is a once-in-a-lifetime global celebration that will open up a world of wonder, excitement and hope for millions of visitors from all corners of the planet.
LBB> Thematically, the Expo is shaped around the districts: Sustainability, Opportunity and Mobility. Why those three sub themes in particular?
Jad> Expo 2020 explores the power of connections across three key sub themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability – areas it sees as fundamental in shaping our world.
●Opportunity: Unlocking the potential for individuals and communities to shape the future
●Mobility: Creating smarter and more productive movement of people, goods and ideas, both physically and virtually, that ensure we maintain our resiliency
●Sustainability: Respecting and living in balance with the world we inhabit to ensure a sustainable future for all
LBB> The Expo was delayed due to Covid-19 – though ironically it seems that the pandemic has enhanced the importance and relevance of the ideas and innovations showcased at the Expo. It feels like it has gone from a major event to one that potentially can point the way forward after a world-changing pandemic. What are your thoughts on this?
Jad> Considering the turbulence that the world has gone through recently and the challenges that lie ahead, our vision of 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future' is more relevant now than ever.
Humanity needs to come together to build bridges, enable action and inspire real-life solutions to real-world challenges. While we will continue to tackle the impact of Covid-19, the planet is also currently facing a wealth of other issues, including climate change and equal access to basic human rights. Seeking inspiring solutions to these challenges remains the focal purpose of Expo 2020 Dubai.
LBB> Historically, World Expos have premiered world-changing technologies, from Charles Babbage’s computing machine to the first TV broadcast. That’s quite some legacy! What technologies are you looking forward to seeing unveiled to the public?
Jad> World Expos have long been a window to the future, showcasing innovations and inventions that at the time seemed almost miraculous but are now part of everyday life. At Expo 2020 Dubai, visitors will see the unveiling of inspiring innovations and ideas from all around the world. For example, they can explore artificial intelligence, space and augmented reality, before breaking for lunch with robots.
Expo 2020 Dubai is not only a showcase of innovation. It is also an active driver. It is nurturing innovation by collaborating with the best minds across the globe, encouraging innovative ideas and capabilities, and developing the culture of innovation around the world.
LBB> Before joining Expo, you’ve worked at ad agencies and led marketing at brands like Virgin Mobile, du and Qatar Telecom – what was it about the opportunity at Expo that really excited you?
Jad> Giving back to the UAE. I consider myself fortunate to be living in Dubai, and when the opportunity at Expo knocked on my door, I was literally pulled by it. How many chances would I get in my lifetime to be part of something that big, that inspiring, for the country that has been so generous to me and my family? It was a no-brainer.
LBB> You’ve spent a lot of your career working in innovation for brands – how can brands turn the inspiration of Expo into substantial transformation?
Jad> Innovation and business transformation are the lifeblood of every brand and organisation. We all practice them on a daily basis without realising it. Expo invites people to join the making of a new world. This is not an invitation to be part of the biggest concert or biggest exhibition, it is an invitation to take part in writing our future as a human race, as people, as organisations, as brands etc.
It is an opportunity for all of us to rethink how we live and behave, and what our legacy is going to be. The opportunities that brands have to be part of this conversation and experience are massive, and I believe the brave ones out there will be the ones that will capture all those experiences, learnings and insights, and transform them into actions that take them into the future.
LBB> The themes of the Expo – especially Opportunity, but also Sustainability – suggest that innovation is not just technological. How can brands innovate/transform their role in society?
Jad> Sustainability is not limited to individual buildings, construction or the visitor experience; the whole 4.38sqkm site is truly a blueprint for the sustainable smart cities of the future.
More than 130 buildings across Expo 2020 are connected through ‘MindSphere’ platform – a cloud technology from Siemens, Infrastructure Digitalisation Partner of Expo 2020, that analyses and visualises data for intelligent decision-making. This smart technology will help Expo 2020 meet its sustainability targets, with features including smart metering and sensors that monitor the energy consumption and efficiency of power, light, water and climate conditioning systems.
Hosting the largest installation of MindSphere anywhere in the world, Expo 2020 offers a unique opportunity to understand how these smart infrastructure technologies can enable and deliver sustainable communities – creating a future smart city that will continue as District 2020 after Expo closes its doors on March 31st, 2022.
LBB> And how do you think the Expo will energise or inspire and inform the local agency and marketing world?
Jad> Expo 2020 is all about connecting minds and creating the future, and this is embedded in everything we do. Every single brief we have touches us as human beings and delivers a message about a better future. We are working with multiple agencies – some are multinational, while others are local. It also helps that we have some of the best agency minds on our side, which makes everything that much more interesting and inspiring for all of us.
LBB> There’s a home audience for Expo and an international one – how do you hope the event will shape Dubai’s global reputation?
Jad> Throughout its history, the UAE has shown the world what is possible through its remarkable development. With Expo 2020, Dubai will go a step further in inspiring future generations to spark innovations that will underline the next 50 years of human progress, creating a better, more sustainable future for everyone across the planet. It serves as a celebration of the UAE’s vision by supporting the growth of tourism, stimulating the development of innovative businesses in the UAE, and enhancing the country’s international reputation as a location to live, work, visit and do business.
LBB> What have been the most surprising things you’ve personally learned in your journey with Expo? How do you think it’s helping you rethink and re-imagine innovation?
Jad> One of the most interesting learnings so far from my journey at Expo is the importance of agility in everything we do. Our marketing has been continuously evolving, and every step it has taken, it has become more nimble.
Agility at Expo becomes central to everything we do – and when faced with Covid-19, it becomes critical. Agility requires many things to happen, and to drive results. It touches every aspect of an organisation, from structure, to processes, to technology and human behaviour. For it to work, every employee should accept it and adopt it as a core belief.