Vincent Raffray


Creative director and co-founder at Tonic, where he is called the “chief creative guru”. Raffray started his career in his native South Africa before he went to Dubai in 2003 – a decision that most told him was “creative suicide”. It did work out though, as Vincent worked for Y&R and Impact BBDO before starting Tonic. Vincent has won several awards, both locally and internationally.

What’s special about advertising in Dubai?
This is a relatively young market that is growing at an incredible rate. The opportunities are endless. Yes there are certain constraints, but these constraints I find, have helped us produce better, universally relevant campaigns. You also have a melting pot of cultures in the UAE. In our agency alone, we have around 20 different nationalities all working together. Every person brings with them a wealth of creativity and knowledge from their home country. Geographically speaking, the UAE is centrally located and from a creative point of view, it allows us to tap into the hottest resources from around the world.

What do you most enjoy about advertising?
In many ways, we are responsible for creating popular culture. Everything you watch, read or listen to has in some way been influenced or paid for by advertising. It taps directly into what makes us tick as human beings, and I love that.

What makes a good advertisement?
When the communication has managed to get through my defenses and into my body and mind, when it evokes some sort of emotion and moves me to action then it has done its job and should be considered good. Some pieces of communication just do it in varying degrees of intensity. Every year I’m inspired by new and innovative ways to get through to the consumer. It’s ideas that hit you when you least expect it and ideas that create the culture we live in today.

What do you look for in a student book and what impresses you?
Education still plays a major role in developing young talent. This is an area that can be greatly improved, but unfortunately, advertising and its crafts are still not taken seriously by many educational facilities. This creates a huge shortage of qualified entry-level creatives. I look for individuals that live creatively, not just in the work they do, but in the lives they live. If someone has a real passion about what they do, it will show in their work, in their hobbies, in everything they do. Obviously their books need to show some level of talent, but I don’t want to hire someone who is just looking for a job. I want to hire someone who wants to make a difference.

What’s the most common misconception about being a creative?
That just because we spend most of our time looking like we’re doing nothing, doesn’t mean we’re not working. Being creative is more a state-of-mind than something you can measure on paper. The most important part of our joboccurs in our heads, and a lot of people don’t quite understand that concept.

What skills are most important for a creative?
As I said before, you have to know human nature to do this job. You need to know why people do what they do. You need to know what will influence a person’s decision making. If you can speak to someone and influence them without them knowing, then you are doing your job well. This is a skill that takes many years to develop and one that you will not only find in books. You get it from life, from listening to people, from experience, from stepping outside your comfort zone. Live a little and you’ll learn a lot.