There's a clichéd perception about Dubai advertising: It's the place creatives go to die - a one way, tax-free ticket to nowhere.
So it was with low expectations and a little intrigue that I went out there after being invited to judge the 2012 Dubai Lynx awards.
The awards, which are now in their sixth year, are run by the Cannes Lions group and accept work from across the Middle East and North Africa.
Previously the region had never won any metal in the big global award shows and CEO Philip Thomas reminded the fully international jury that this was not Cannes and that we should be looking to encourage the region and to build on their growing success.
"God, how bad is this going to be?" I thought to myself.
However within the first few hours of judging what jumped out at me was that political upheaval across the region was creating some seriously spiky briefs.
The creativity in response was raw, energetic and ambitious with campaigns against militant dictators, political apathy and corruption and work that championed women's rights or shone light upon less discussed subjects such as child sex abuse to the fore.
It was all very provocative stuff. Not always well crafted, but properly edgy and effective.
Two ideas in particular cleaned up across our categories and will certainly go on to pick up more gongs in international shows.
‘The Return of Dictator Ben Ali’ saw one huge, imposing portrait of the former dictator reinstated in a square in newly freed Tunisia.
The response was emotional.
As the crowd tore down the poster in anger, the message underneath reminded people to use their vote at the upcoming elections as only half the population were expected to turn out.
This idea was so well executed with simple cut through and a message to every country in the same situation to embrace newfound democracy.
The other idea I loved also showed the power of big brands doing tangible good with commitment.
Across the UAE, groups of migrant labour workers from neighboring countries are toiling away building vast gleaming skyscraper monuments to progress in record times.
In desert temperatures the work is hard and dangerous, but the one thing they all love doing in their down time is playing cricket.
So in response Sprite created an official Cricket Stars league: a labour workers World Cup with team names, logos, uniforms and playoffs in massive stadiums in front of tens of thousands of people.
To Coke's credit the tournament is already in its second series. Beautiful.
It wasn't a completely glowing scorecard for the region though.
Craft in execution is generally very poor, digital work is still in its infancy and mobile is not even on the radar.
But then again opening a web page in this part of the world can be challenging.
It's like being teleported back to 1997 complete with all the technological challenges many will remember from that era.
Yet despite all the challenges advertisers in the region face, from amid the region’s revolutions creativity has truly sprung from the Arab Spring.
With a changing political landscape, ideas which were previously suppressed are now rising to the surface.
Once seen as a region steeped in cultural and political inertia, the Middle East is now changing rapidly and this part of the world could increasingly be a hot bed for creative ideas that could really change the world.
Nick Darken, ECD, Albion
This article was first published on brandrepublic.com