My Audi Experience – Amr Mokhtar

Lots of people are lucky to work in the field that they are in love with, but few are lucky enough to work on specific brands that they’re fans of. I’m one of the few, as I have the privilege of managing the accounts of a car brand that is my favourite: Audi.

The joy of work came to its climax on the day my dream came true, and I got a test drive in the all-new 2016 R8.
We took the beautiful automobile for a shoot in the Yas Marina circuit, and I was able to explore its capabilities, and it was an absolute MONSTER!
By Amr Mokhtar
See the outcome of the shoot in the videos below:

Modern Brands in a consumer empowered world

Tonic’s head of Digital, Mamta Varerkar, recently moderated a panel at the very exciting Step Conference this April. The panelists were Asad Rehman, who is responsible for managing Unilever’s media investments across Middle East and Africa, and Michel Malkoun, the COO of Digital Media services, which is the digital media arm of the Choueiri Group.
The panel topic addressed a very important issue where brands need to adapt the way they communicate to the new empowered consumer. Gone are the days of top-down communication, where brands use one copy to speak to the entire family with one message. We now need to address each consumer, with a message that is relevant to them at their stage of the purchase funnel and on the device and format where they are receptive to consume these messages.

For more about the topic, watch the video here/below:


Inspiration Stage – Creativity pays up in Afghanistan

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 3.02.58 PM

Look no further than Volkswagen’s betrayal to know that a company’s behaviour is a much bigger contributor to its image than any form of advertising will ever be.

That is what Tonic’s discussion entailed at the Lynx Festival on the 8th of March. Arnaud (Head of Strategy), Jacqui (Head of Media) & Altaf (COO of Roshan) shared the limelight on the inspiration stage to speak about Roshan Telecom’s investment of most of its profits into developing Afghanistan’s medical & educational sectors.

Roshan entered the Afghanistan market in 2004 as a social enterprise. With the help of the innovation and creativity of our fellow Tonicians, Roshan became and maintained their position as number one in a very challenging and competitive market.
They won countless awards along the way, and were eventually named in “FastCompany’s World top 10 most innovative companies of 2015 in Social Good”, and “Fortune’s 2015 Change the World List”. It’s a great example of corporate social responsibility at its finest.

Furthermore, since early 2013 when Roshan first signed up with Tonic, they have also won a significant amount of International Awards, including: Transform Awards 2015, Social Media Awards 2015, Ethical Corp Awards & Social Contribution Awards at the Asia Communication Awards 2014.
This is a testament to the fact that advertising can be used for good; to spread goodwill; to change images, and most importantly: to change lives.

Enjoy the talk here:

Shainoor Khoja wins ‘The Lewis institute Change maker’ award

shainoor_imageWe are very proud of Shainoor, who is a Senior Fellow in Social Innovation at Babson College and who was awarded a prestigious award “ The Lewis Institute Change Maker Award” that she accepted on Saturday at a special event at the Four Seasons Hotel Dubai along with His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum Chairman and Chief Executive Emirates Airline & Group.

After an impressive introduction, Shainoor delivered an inspiring speech about her work in Afghanistan and Syria, which received a two minute standing ovation from an audience that included friends and family, royals and executives, alumni and students and members of Tonic.

Shainoor Khoja, the Managing Director of Roshan Corporate Social Responsibility, has established an award-winning Corporate Social Responsibility Department and a full-time medical, dental and physiotherapy clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan. Roshan’s CSR department encompasses activities in commerce, health, social welfare and education with a strong focus on social enterprise initiatives. Her recent projects include developing telemedicine solutions to address shortcomings in Afghanistan’s healthcare system, bringing e-learning and low cost computers to women and children, providing mobile money solutions to emerging markets, providing market prices of commodities to farmers, facilitating women in sustainable and profitable businesses and setting up the first ever corporate medical, life and disability insurance scheme for Afghan employees.

Shainoor also operates as a business consultant for Better business enterprise in the area of CSR for business start-ups who wish to enter markets in the Middle East

She has a special interest in value added services for the Telecommunications and Internet Technology sector.

Shainoor studied in England and Canada and holds a degree in Physiotherapy, a Masters in Health Management and a Postgraduate Certificate from Cambridge University. Shainoor is an Executive-in-Residence at the Center for Women’s Leadership at Babson College, Boston, U.S.A, she has been a Change Agent in Residence at Bainbridge Graduate Institute. She is a member of Social Venture Networks and sits on several international and local boards and committees.

An easy, authentic risotto recipe by Valerio Mangiafico

This is a simple and very tasty recipe, perfect after a long day at work. It’s Created by our very own Sr. Art Director, who in his spare time happens to be writing a cookbook featuring recipes of the most authentic Italian dishes.

Valerio_Mangiafico_hover RISOTTO[1]

Risotto with asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes and fontina cheese.


1 white onion

1 carrot


Baby asparagus

Dried tomatoes

Fontina cheese

Carnaroli rice (80 grams per person)

Sea salt

Olive Oil

Black pepper

Preparation time: approximately 20 minutes


  1. Boil water in a tall cooking pot with a bit of celery, a white onion and a carrot. When the water is boiled, add a little sea salt. This will become the broth in which we will cook the rice later. It’s very important to always leave the broth boiling when cooking risotto.
  1. Heat a little bit of oil in a non-stick frying pan. When the oil is hot enough add the cooked rice (about 80 grams per person).

It is better to use Carnaroli rice, because it’ s perfect for this type of recipe and has a preparation time of about 14/15 minutes cooking.

  1. Toast the rice slightly for less than a couple of minutes and continue turning it so it won’t burn.

After about a minute and a half, add a bit of stock to cover the rice using a ladle and continue to stir it. The risotto should continuously be checked, so it doesn’t get burned or overcooked.

  1. After about 3 minutes of cooking, add chopped asparagus to the risotto (it’s better to remove the end of the stem because it’s very tough and not very tasty). We use the baby asparagus, because this kind of asparagus has a very short cooking time.
  2. Continue to turn the risotto and when the broth evaporates, add more and repeat this process until the risotto is completely cooked.


  1. When the rice is almost cooked add the chopped dried tomatoes (make sure these are washed properly, removing the salt and oil) to it and taste the risotto. Add salt according to your taste. Remember that the stock and the tomatoes are already salty so do not add too much salt to the risotto.
  1. When the risotto is ready remove it from the stove and add the flakes of fontina cheese (the smaller the flakes, the easier it melts).
  1. If you want you can also add a bit of pepper.

A recipe for success – Tonic’s new HR Policy

Hero-image-v3The advertising industry can be a cruel one to its employees. Ambitious clients, tight deadlines & the constant need for quality work can create an environment full of stress & resentment. This is where Tonic comes in.

Looking closely within, we wanted to change the way we treat our most important asset – our people. We wanted to treat them like responsible grown ups, and help them achieve a work/life balance, and encourage them to leave the office more & even work from home. The objective is to make our people happier, and to achieve a more positive atmosphere at the office.

Inspired by the latest HR techniques implemented by GE, The Virgin Group, Twitter & Netflix among others, our new HR policy was revised with the following additions:
– Flexible working hours where employees can leave early if they come in early.
– The option of working part-time
– Self-managed (Unlimited) leave days.

Watch this video to see how 4 Tonicians used the self-managed leave to perform a needed medical operation, attain an MBA degree, spend more time with their family & take care of their newborn children.

We asked other Tonicians how they will use their time, and the answers ranged from those of the athletes who wanted to practise their favourite sport for more hours, the adventurous who wanted to travel to different places around the world, the social butterflies who wanted to catch up with their friends & family, to even the settlers who just wanted to sit back, relax and enjoy their preferred books or video games.

The question is always in the air: “What’s the secret to success?”. Agencies in the region take pride in pushing their resources to the limit & burning the midnight oil to stay competitive, but it more often than not results in substandard work that lacks creativity, and a daily sight of fatigued employees & tired eyes. After all, you can’t force creativity out of people if you take away their freedom. Tonic’s secret is a leap of faith to give their people the required breathing space to ignite their motivation & imagination.

And it’s working well. Look no further than our clients for a testimonial that the last year’s work has been amongst the finest an agency has produced. Audi, Wendy’s, DP World, Roshan Telecom & Emaar (to name a few) will vouch for it. Judge for yourself by visiting our website or attending the Dubai Lynx international festival of creativity.

So there you have it, a breakthrough HR policy aimed to increase the happiness of the employees to result in better quality work. Because it’s not about the number of hours you spend at an agency that matter, it’s the quality of the output that makes a communication strategy stand out amongst the rest. We’re starting to feel the positive vibes already.

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There is nothing quite like a book

Behavioural economics is an ever-growing discipline where researchers study the psychology behind decision-making. Simply put, it looks at why people sometimes make irrational decisions and what the consequences of those decisions are.

Why does this matter? Because we spend our time making decisions, some are small while others are life changing. Sometimes we take days or even months making a decision and sometimes we decide in the blink of an eye, without even realising it. Decisions govern our lives and yet we rarely think about how we make them.

Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed

This is probably my favourite read of 2015. We’ve all heard that failure is good, but let’s face it, no one likes to be a loser. Black Box thinking is finally a book that changes your mind on the subject. It doesn’t just tell you that failure is ok, but convinces you that you need to fail (and document said failure) in order to truly succeed one day. That people who made it, didn’t do so because they were smarter or luckier; they did because they were ready to fail, failed more and had the discipline to learn from their mistakes and improve. Easier said than done, but Black Box Thinking will help you do it. A must-read!


Think Like a Freak by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt

From the authors of Freakonomics, one of the most influential books on behavioural economics, Think like a Freak is a great read for anyone who wants to start solving problems rather than just talking about them. This book promises to retrain your brain, and if you apply some of the things they say, it will do just that. And to top it all up, this is a really fun read that will cover topics like competitive hot-dog-eating and why e-mail scammers always come from Nigeria. It even tells you why you should quit more

Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Should I stay or should I go, Should I say Yes or No? Decisive helps you answer these questions and more. Written by two brothers, both university professors with renown; Decisive can be divided in two parts. First, what are the main reasons why we make mistakes; secondly, how do we avoid making these mistakes. You also learn why creatives should always work on more than one idea, why it’s important to have an outside view on things and why base rates are more important than predictions. This won’t help you with deciding between having Chinese or Indian, but it will definitely help you be better equipped with making life decisions.

Also consider David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell and Quiet by Susan Cain

Audi challenges Tonic in Oman

So here we are again, ready for a new adventure. Last time we were at Burj Khalifa and this time we find ourselves at the Omani mountains.

It’s me, Cristiano, Renato, Nicolas, Renaud and Tony. We are on our way to Balal Sayt, a village where we are going to spend 5 days shooting a beautiful story.


We’ve been cherishing this project for a few months now and we are all excited that it’s actually going to happen.

We are going to work with an amazing director, Joeri Holsheimer, who is a specialist in documentaries and who spent 4 weeks in the field looking for the protagonist of the story I am about to tell you.

So, imagine a beautiful, very remote village shuttered in the Omani mountains. It’s a 7 hour drive from Dubai, 2 of which are off-road.

We are leading a convoy of 22 Audi Q7’s and we are going to turn a dream into reality.

Unknown-3As part of the Audi Challenges Arabia initiative, a fan has challenged Audi to light up a football pitch by only using the car’s headlights. We accepted the challenge, but we wanted to do more. So we thought, why not look for a young boy who loves football and literally light up his dreams.We found a young Omani boy named Zakaria. Zak loves playing football, he is obsessed with the game and he would like to become a professional player one day. He lives in a very remote place with no facilities or proper infrastructure. He’d love to play on a proper pitch made of grass and train to become the next Messi of Arabia.


We want to make his dream come true so we will build a football pitch and give Zak the thrill of playing on it for the first time as if he is a professional player. But the most important thing is that the pitch will stay there so that Zakaria and his friends will have the opportunity to train and play on it and chase their dreams.

Audi Oman TVC -115[1]It’s a fulfilling experience that puts us in contact with wonderful people that live a completely different life than the one we are used to in Dubai; a complete immersion in a stunning environment and in a kid’s dreams and passions.

Check out the final video here!

I look forward to see what the next adventure will be.

I’ll keep you posted,

Francesca Meloni




The best and the worst ads of the Super Bowl 50, in my opinion

OK, the Broncos won but what about the ads? Who won? Who lost? It’s time to review the best and the worst of the 62 in-game ads that ran during Super Bowl 50.

I started out thinking I was going to do a simple Top 5/ Worst 5 list. Going through all these films, I quickly realized something peculiar about this year’s Super Bowl that made me change the way I was going to do this review.

So many ads had celebrities, it became a category on its own. The good ones, the bad ones, the really bad ones, the embarrassing ones, the forgettable ones, all made me realize that the age old formula has probably become just that: an old formula.


Maybe it’s the looming economic crisis, terrorism, or crazy American elections that makes advertisers fall back on the middle of the road. It’s never been more obvious that not taking a stand, ticking boxes or following formulas is the worst medicine.

In some cases, companies hired celebrities who were really cool in previous ads but used them so poorly the result turned out to be lame and forced. Take Liam Neeson for LG this year, compared to last year’s Clash of Clans. Even more sad was Kia’s Christopher Walken closet (Modern Family anyone?) for Kia this year when he was so awesome for last year’s Made From Cool.

We also have celebrities making parodies of themselves. Jeff Goldblum’s And can anyone tell me what Lil Wayne was doing in this? We also have Sir Anthony Hopkins, making fun of the fact that he is now an official sell out for TurboTax.

In other cases, like T-Mobile, their agency managed to make an ad that looks like a joke on the brand and its marketing team. It’s not funny. At all! Since Drake is so loved, I really think this is the worst one of Super Bowl 2016. It’s not just wallpaper, it makes you dislike T-Mobile even more.


Then we have celebrity wallpapers (I’ve decided to be nice)… Skittles’s Steven Tyler; Amazon’s Alec Baldwin “supported” by NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, Grammy award-winning rapper Missy Elliot, and actor Jason Schwartzman was still pretty lame; T.J Millers commercial for Shock Top was ok, he was actually funnier in his review of the Super Bowl commercials; Ryan Reynold’s RyanVille for I forgot which car; Snicker’s Willem Dafoe and Marilyn; Bud’s foul-mouthed Helen Mirren; Arnold Schwarzenegger (Mobile Strike)? and Hyundai’s Kevin Hart, Taco Bell’s … yawn!

And maybe we should completely forget George Takei for Taco Bell or Ben Affleck and Jesse Eisenberg for Turkish Airlines, as well as Key & Peele’s

Add a few more celebrities and you sink even lower.

In Mini we count no less than 6 celebrities. A lot for such a small car. A lot of money for such a bad ad. Tennis great Serena Williams, soccer player Abby Wambach, hip-hop star T-Pain, major-league pitcher Randy Johnson, skateboard legend Tony Hawk, and actor Harvey Keitel manage the feat of making this ad for Mini completely forgettable. Even Serena on her own is so boring she looks like she’s going to fall into a coma while talking.

Audi R8 Star Man

I guess you get the point. Enough celebrity bashing, here’s my Top 3:

Audi R8 Spaceman is just awesome (R.I.P. Bowie), and I just couldn’t stop laughing at how stupid-funny Heinz was, and finally, a great way to evolve a classic ad campaign for Axe.

Special mention for Super Bowl Babies Choir (yes, another celebrity in here, Seal). I have a problem with this ad from the NFL as they seem fine with wife-beating players but I love the 2015’s babies. There’s also Jeep 75th, easy but well suited for the Super Bowl. Colgate #EveryDropCounts well done but ridiculous coming from a company where fraction of its profit could go a long way in solving the problem. Also well shot Nintendo20 Train On, and not for everyone but this Doritos made me laugh.

And then, because I’m sticking to being nice today, let’s talk about those who despite their effort got lost in wallpaper-land. Peta, Campbell soup, Coke’s brother and Hulk/Ant-man, Buick convertible, RocketMortgage, Prius, all the Butterfinger ads, Bai, KFC, McDonald’s, Paypal, and another 30 or so advertisers… and yes, some of these also had celebrities, like T-Mobile‘s Steve Harvey, and Buick’s Odell Beckham Jr.

Since you insist, here’s the 3 Worst Ads: Jublia, Xifaxan, and Mtn Dew Kickstart. Those that made me you cringe so much they might actually hurt sales.


All in all, the celebrities came out as the big winners, the advertisers as the big losers, and the viewers ended up with not much to enjoy. The good news is that they’ve probably already forgotten most of these ads.

Tonicians: 2015 in review

As the new year approached, being the creepy me, I sent out a form for everyone at Tonic to fill out, so I could learn more about them without them knowing anything about me. Obviously, Eline (copywriter) suggested that I write the Tonic blog about 2015 in review (dammit). Out of 60 people in the office, only 22 cool kids filled them out. They all also happen to be my favorite drinking buddies. Knowing they’re comfortable sharing their thoughts with me, I’ve decided to make this as uncomfortable for them as possible.

The form consisted of the basic questions such as age, which some refrained from disclosing. Surprisingly, they weren’t women. From what I could gather, the average age at Tonic is 28.5. That’s young for an ad agency. Next was the most important question of all time – favorite food. Most of us are hardcore carnivores that love a lot of spices. Indian, Thai and Japanese are in the top 3. Reem N. made a point that she isn’t a ‘foodist’ and loves all food equally.

Moving on to the actual review of last year, 2015 has not been the kindest to Tonicians but yet one of the most memorable. We raise a toast to those who struggled finding a job. You’re all now proud Tonic newbies we can pick on. It doesn’t last long so enjoy the attention for now. They had the usual complaints like surviving the first summer in Dubai, exercising and saving up. For Ermie, it was training for a marathon and achieving a medal for 5k. Tiya has adopted 3 new kittens off the street, all the while struggling with her medical condition. We’ve all heard a lot of heartbreaking news about the Middle East that affected our GM, Wael, the most. Which is probably the reason why the greatest lesson he learnt this year was that peace comes from within.

Furthermore, we’ve had a lot to celebrate in 2015. Highlights are: the unforgettable fabulous weddings of Ghada and her now-hubby Ahmed in Amman (undoubtedly, the elegant Arabic calligraphy invitation was designed by herself) and of the dancing duo Stephanie and her life/dancing partner, Dillon, who said their I dos in India. Of course, we can’t forget the 9 little Tonicians that were introduced to the world; starting with Alice’s twins. Walaa was blessed with a beautiful boy, Ali’s son Zamin now has a baby brother, Michelle has named her new-born Merliah Cailee, Jinto is a papa bear to a baby boy, Amr had his first baby and to make the festive season more merry, Karen had her boys at the end of the year. Stephanie graduated her MBA while working part-time for a while at Tonic. Tony and Saniya went on their first scuba diving experience and Eline is now a certified advanced scuba diver.

As for 2016, we all look forward to upping our game. The agency as a team is focused on solving problems in the world and being recognized for pencils and lions. We have high hopes for our house chef, Valerio to cook up some new ideas while he learns to prepare Indian recipes. As for Ahmed, he’s looking forward to settling down. Who’s the lucky girl? It’s learning French for Reem A., so she can eavesdrop on the strategy team – Arnaud and Wally on the development of upcoming projects. Phil’s only wish is for Eline to stop annoying him on a daily basis. However, we all know that it’s the one thing that makes him smile during a stressful Thursday evening. Usman plans to launch his own project this year. The adventurous squad, Eline, Renaud, Wael, Tony, Alba, Panda and I (Saniya) plan to travel the world, making the most out of our unlimited holidays policy. Maybe not literally the whole world but combined, we sure could cover half. I’m not going to mention all the lies that people promise to do every new year, how they’re going to exercise, save money and be a better person. I like you the way you are – fat, broke and sarcastic.

To conclude, last year was pretty awesome for the people at Tonic but this year seems to be looking better already. I’ll make sure to check-in on everyone’s “resolutions” during the summer to give you all an update.

– Saniya Saifi