Don’t get stuck in your comfort zone.

Advice from the world’s most awarded creative at Miami Ad School

Hatem El Akad is a copywriter, drummer, advertising nerd, voice-over talent and empathetic human. Everything from the advertising culture to the music industry has an impact on all of us, especially Hatem. He wanted to have a career that allowed him to make real changes in this world. So he enrolled at Miami Ad School. His ideas are so remarkable that he is the world’s most awarded creative at Miami Ad School. Read below why he picked M.AD. What he learned. And see his award winning ideas.

How would you describe Miami Ad School to a five year old?

Hatem: Before I begin, I want to take a second to say that I am honored to be featured in this interview, and a big thank you to everyone who helped make this even happen. I would describe the school as the playground where fun can get you to work, and where work is actually fun. The place you go to discover the real you, and the creative in you.

What were you doing before you came to Miami Ad School and what motivated you to go?

Hatem: I was a drummer and an English and Arabic creative copywriter/voice-over talent, working in several agencies and companies including JWT and Drive Dentsu.

This school is the talk of town back where I’m from, Egypt. All the creatives know of it. The two biggest creative directors in the Middle East graduated from Miami Ad School, Ali Ali and Hisham Kharma.

I decided to go to M.AD because I would look at the work produced abroad and I think “Why couldn’t I think of that?” Or “How did they think of that?”

I was hungry and wanted to learn – I still am – so I sold my apartment and car so I could afford to move to the States (1 US dollar = 16 Egyptian pounds), and now I am here: grateful, happy, without a single regret, and with all the pressure in the world to make it. Please send luck and good vibes. #nopressure

Hatem on his first day at school →

What are the three most important things you’ve learned at Miami Ad School?

Hatem: Damn, super hard to narrow it down to three. Well honestly and off the bat, I’ve learned that teamwork is everything and that there is no such thing as my idea. That is the reason our work won so many awards: my teammates. Thank you so much to each and every one of my amazing, talented and hardworking partners (listed below) for making this happen. Without you, I would have never been able to achieve this.

The other thing is that if you really want to make it in this business, especially as an international student, you can’t just be another creative. You have to create insightful, meaningful work that not only sells, but tells a story, talks to people, resonates and solves problems.

And the third thing I knew – but didn’t realized how important it was – is how much one’s ego and snobbiness can hurt and jeopardize your career. No one will ever want to work with you or hire you if you’re not a nice, humble person. No matter how many awards you win or how many newspapers talk about you, stay humble and human. Period.

You decided to double major in Copywriting and Art Direction. What motivated you to do that?

Hatem: A couple of reasons, actually. I have always been interested in both, and I wanted to become the best creative I could possibly be – especially as an international student.

I also thought that if I want to be a good Creative Director one day – fingers crossed – I would need to have an understanding of both, since a CD manages Art Director and Copywriting teams. Not everyone needs to do a double major to be a good Creative Director, but every good creative needs to have a basic understanding of what they’re not specialized in.

You participated in the Quarter Away program and attended M.AD locations in San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami. How does that “cross pollination” affect your work?

Hatem: Great question! It has been amazing and it’s one of the main reasons I chose to go to this school. I met so many people from different countries and backgrounds, and that broadened my insights, knowledge, and ideation thinking. It has also given me the chance to work with other students from all over the world (from different schools where we met as they were doing Quarter Away).

How has your view of the industry evolved?

Hatem: When I was working in Egypt, most of the work I did was to sell product, create events or to emotionally connect with our audience. In other areas of the world – such as the United States and London – advertising, storytelling and communication can help solve real problems and create impact, which is one of the main reasons why I wanted to to go to this school and work in the States.

I was born in a very conservative country where many are not accepted or feel equal.

A lot of my friends who are in the LGBTQ community cannot come out. A lot of my best friends and family members are girls who do not feel that they are given a voice and are always mistreated and do not feel equal. A lot of my Christian and atheist friends can’t speak up. I don’t like that. No one should be okay with that.

I want everyone, sorry I meant EVERYONE to feel equal and liberated – especially my people in Egypt. No matter your race, skin color, background, religion, gender, and anything else.

On that note, I actually believe women are stronger than men. I mean what man on earth would be able to have a baby in his stomach for 9 months, put up with that, push a baby out of their body, and continue to take care of it until it’s a teen. Hell no. That’s never gonna happen. Women are stronger than men. Emotionally, mentally and physically. And yes, this is coming from a man. No shame in admitting that.

Your work at M.AD won a lot of awards so far. Can you share a few of your favorite projects with us?

Hatem: Thank you so much for your kind words, I am humbled and honored!

Just wanted to start by saying that OUR PROJECTS – not MY projects won these awards. Teamwork made this happen.

Believe me when I tell you that until now I still cannot digest all of this.

Some of my favorite babies (projects) would be Time To Act, It Sticks, Panic Aid, We Didn’t Start The Fire and Comfort Knows No Companion. The work, it’s synopsis and the awards it won can be found here: hatemelakad.com.

 

Time To Act: WE DID WHAT NO OTHER BRITISH NEWSPAPER COULD: SUE THE WORLD’S BIGGEST FAKE NEWS POWERHOUSE

We Didn’t Start The Fire: ADNAMS WANTS YOU TO ENJOY ITS BEER GUILT FREE DURING THE APOCALYPSE BECAUSE IT DIDN’T CAUSE IT.

Crocs: IF COMFORT IS WHAT YOU SEEK, FOREVER SINGLE IS WHAT YOU’LL BE…

Panic Aid: APPLE BRINGS THE HELP YOU PHYSICALLY CAN’T GET OR ASK FOR DURING A PANIC ATTACK

Collaboration is an important aspect of the school. What are you working on now and with whom?

Hatem: Collaboration is one of the things I absolutely love that about the school. Quarter Away and the school’s network made me able to work in 7 teams of 3 to 4 people each from Toronto, San Francisco, Miami, Hamburg, Berlin, Egypt and New York on 16 award briefs from the One Show and D&AD.

I am also working on 4 side projects for my portfolio. I’m kinda losing my mind but it will be worth it!

My student partners are Valentina Correa, Lee I, Refaat Rico, Sevinj Muradova, Monica Andrade, Passant El Mohdar, Roselyn Grace, Pedro Sacilotto, Shannon Duel, and Ted Pedro.

What are some of the opportunities you’ve had in school that impacted you the most?

Hatem: The best thing about the school is not only the network of teachers and creatives, but the people working and enrolled at the school. This is what impacted me the most.

The unbelievably supportive, hardest working person I know and my US father Manolo Garcia, who is the San Francisco school Director. Henry Mairena our schools president has been incredibly awesome. Stacey Fenster, our Quarter Away co-ordinator goes above and beyond to help. My teachers in San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami.

Most IMPORTANTLY – and the reason why this story now exists – my talented teammates and friends. The school’s network of students and grads is amazing.(Some of this talent are fresh grads looking for new opportunities. HIRE THEM NOW, they are UNBELIEVABLY TALENTED, I PROMISE YOU):

Josh Peterson, Sarah Olicker, Lauren Piccirillo, Donghoon Lee, Willow Ennen, Renny Eackelbary, Amber Jolley, Michael Ching, Neha Biluve, Prasiddha Thiyagarajan, Connor Witt, Joel Chua, Erica Yoshimura, Refaat Rico, Paola Delgado, Ahmed Radwan, Abdo Soliman

How would you describe the school to someone who was thinking of attending?

Hatem: Just Do It (I love Nike’s Work). This is not a school with professors, this is a school with the people that work in the agencies and companies you want to work at, and they are great teachers. No math, history, physics, or subjects you would not like. It’s pure, joyful work through classes that mimic the agency and company setting.

Any last advices to share?

Hatem: Don’t get stuck in your comfort zone. Dream, believe and you can achieve. I am not the most talented or the most creative person, but I work hard, and so should you.

No one should tell you that you can’t do something or be somebody. Make it happen.

Don’t listen to all the voices that tell you “no” or “you can’t do it.”

Be thankful for the struggle, f*** shit and accomplish.

Carve your own path. Period.

Also, I would happy to help anyone with anything, especially internationals with their work visas. Please get in touch, we all gotta support one another. My email is hatemelakkad@gmail.com and my website is hatemelakad.com. Peace and love, be kind and accepting.

 

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AWARDS AND PUBLICATIONS

D&AD: New Blood Pencil – Yellow – For Time To Act

CLIO AWARDS: Clio Awards – Shortlist – For Nest Safe Sleeve

THE DRUM USA: For The Parallax Banner ad, For The Parallax Banner ad

ONE SHOW: Young Ones – Merit – For Run The World Young Ones – Merit – For Augmented Mock-Ups

FAST COMPANY WORLD CHANGING IDEAS: Honorable Mention – For iHelp

NEW YORK FESTIVALS: 3rd Prize Award – For Run The World, 3rd Prize Award – For The Parallax Banner Ad (Avant-Garde/Innovative Category), Winner – For The Parallax Banner Ad (Digital/Mobile Category),Winner – For Time To Act, New York Festivals – Global Trend Awards – Winner – For iHelp, New York Festivals – Global Trend Awards – Shortlist – For Panic Aid, Shortlist – For iHelp (Avant-Garde/Innovative Category), Shortlist – For iHelp (Digital/Mobile Category), Shortlist – For The Impossible Is Now Possible, Shortlist – For Every Side Of Every Story, Shortlist – For It Sticks

AMERICAN ADVERTISING FEDERATION – ADDY’S: National Addy Award WINNER – For iHelp

DISTRICT 14 AMERICAN ADVERTISING AWARDS: Gold – For iHelp (Digital Creative Technology Category), Gold – For iHelp (Mobile Or Web-Based Category), Silver – For It Sticks, Silver – For The Impossible Is Now Possible

SAN FRANCISCO ADDY’S: Gold – For iHelp (Digital Creative Technology Category), Silver – For iHelp (Mobile Or Web-Based Category), Silver – For Comfort Knows No Companion, Silver – For Break Up With Ice Cream, Silver – For Every Side Of Every Story, Silver – For It Sticks, Silver – For The Impossible Is Now Possible , Bronze – For The Doggystyle Magazine

SXSW INNOVATION AWARDS: 6th Place Worldwide Finalist – Panic Aid

THE DRUM CHIP SHOP AWARDS USA: Chip Award – For Comfort Knows No Companion, Chip Award – The Parallax Banner Ad, Vinegar Award – For The Parallax Banner Ad – (Best Use Of Tech), Vinegar Award – For Break Up With Ice Cream, Award Nomination – For Run The World, Award Nomination – For Run The World (Best Stunt Or Experience Category), Award Nomination – For we didn’t start the fire, Award Nomination – For Panic Aid, Award Nomination – For ihelp, Award Nomination – For The Parallax Banner Ad (Best Digital), Award Nomination – For Time To Act

CREATIVITY INTERNATIONAL AWARDS: Gold – For Run The World, Gold – For The Impossible Campaign, Silver – For We Didn’t Start The Fire, Silver – For Doggystyle Magazine, Silver – For It Sticks, Silver – For Every Side Of Every Story, Bronze – For iHelp, Bronze – For Panic Aid, Bronze – For Time To Act

CREATIVE CONSCIENCE: Silver – For Time To Act, Commended – For iHelp, Commended – For Nest Safe Sleeve, Commended – For The Parallax Banner Ad, Shortlisted – For Panic Aid, Shortlisted – For We Didn’t Start The Fire

MUSE CREATIVE AWARDS: Platinum – For Nest Safe Sleeve, Gold – For Panic Aid, Gold – For Run The World, Gold – For iHelp, Silver – For Time To Act, Silver – For The Parallax Banner Ad, Rose Gold – For We Didn’t start The Fire

VEGA DIGITAL AWARDS: Gold – for iHelp, Gold – For augmented Mock-Ups, Gold – For Nest Safe Sleeve, Bronze – for Panic Aid, Bronze – for The Parallax banner ad, Bronze – for run the world, Bronze – For Time To Act

GRAPHIS: New Talent Annual – Gold – For iHelp, New Talent Annual – Platinum – For Nest Safe Sleeve, New Talent Annual – Gold – For Time To Act, New Talent Annual – Gold – For The Parallax Banner AD, New Talent Annual – Gold – For Panic Aid, New Talent Annual – Gold – For We Didn’t Start The Fire, New Talent Annual – Gold – For Augmented Mock-Ups, New Talent Annual – Silver – For Comfort Knows No Companion, New Talent Annual – Honorable Mention – For It-Sticks, New Talent Annual – Honorable Mention – For Run The World, New Talent Annual – Honorable Mention – For Break Up With Ice Cream

APPLIED ARTS: For The Parallax Banner Ad, Nest Safe Sleeve

CMYK – TOP NEW CREATIVES: Merit – For The Resurrection, Merit – For Nest Safe Sleeve, Merit – For Panic Aid, Merit – For Music Is The Greatest High, Merit – For The Parallax Banner Ad, Merit – For It’s Not A Food Product, Merit – For Every Side Of Every Story, Merit – For It Sticks

COMMUNICATION ARTS: Photography – For Music Is The Greatest High, Advertising – For The Parallax Banner Ad, Advertising – Shortlist – For Nest Safe Sleeve, Interactive – Shortlist – For The Parallax Banner Ad, Interactive – Shortlist – For Nest Safe Sleeve

SUMMIT CREATIVE AWARDS: Gold – For Safe Sleeve, Silver – For iHelp, Silver – For The Impossible Campaign, Bronze – For Run The World, Bronze – For Doggystyle Magazine

HERMES CREATIVE AWARDS: Platinum – For Time To Act, Platinum – For We Didn’t Start The Fire, Platinum – For The Parallax Banner Ad, Gold – For iHelp, Gold – For Run The World, Honorable Mention – For Panic Aid, Honorable Mention – For Nest Safe Sleeve

NATIONAL STUDENT SHOW AND CONFERENCE: Top Category – For Doggystyle Magazine

FAST COMPANY MAGAZINE: Online And Physical Publication – For iHelp

MUSE AWARDS: Interview With MUSE AWARDS Company, Founder / CEO / Creative Director – For Time To Act

APPLIED ARTS: Online And Physical Publication – For The Parallax Banner Ad, Online And Physical Publication – For Nest Safe Sleeve

GRAPHIS: 2019 – New Talent Annual – Online And Physical Publication – For iHelp

COMMUNICATION ARTS: Photography Annual – Online And Physical Publication – For Music Is,The Greatest High, Advertising Annual – Online and physical Publication – For The Parallax Banner Ad

CREATIVE CONSCIENCE: Online Feature – For Time To Act x 3

CAMPAIGNS OF THE WORLD: Run The World, Time To Act

ADS OF THE WORLD: Panic Aid, Time To Act, Nest Safe Sleeve, Run The World, Break Up With Ice Cream, Comfort Knows No Companion, Augmented Mock-Ups, The Parallax Banner Ad, We didn’t Start The Fire

ADRUBY: Run The World, Time To Act, We Didn’t Start The Fire, Nest Safe Sleeve, Break Up With Ice Cream, Comfort Knows No Companion

WELOVEAD: For Comfort Knows No Companion, For Time To Act, For iHelp, For Break Up With Ice Cream, The Parallax Banner Ad, For Nest Safe Sleeve, For We Didn’t Start The Fire, For Panic Aid, For Augmented Mock-Ups, For Run The World

DESICREATIVE: For iHelp

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