Forget Le Big Mac; the difference is in the diaries

One of my favourite scenes in the film Pulp Fiction is where incompetent gangster Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta, is talking about the little differences between life in the US and in Europe. For him, it’s that at McDonald’s the Quarter Pounder becomes the Royale with Cheese and a Big Mac becomes Le Big Mac. Oh yes, and the fact that the French have their fries with mayonnaise instead of ketchup.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  October 30, 2005

|~||~||~|One of my favourite scenes in the film Pulp Fiction is where incompetent gangster Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta, is talking about the little differences between life in the US and in Europe. For him, it’s that at McDonald’s the Quarter Pounder becomes the Royale with Cheese and a Big Mac becomes Le Big Mac. Oh yes, and the fact that the French have their fries with mayonnaise instead of ketchup. For me, the little difference between working in the Middle East and Europe is the far healthier relationship the region’s marketing professionals have with their diaries here. If I were in the UK and booking lunch with an agency bigwig, then I’d expect five minutes of diary tennis with their secretary, before eventually settling on a date for seven or eight weeks hence. That would probably then end up being postponed a couple of times. Yet here, that would be laughable.My trip to Lebanon for the report carried in our central pages this week is a great example. At two or three days notice, virtually every one of the major agency players was able to make themselves available. If you’ve got business to do here, you can generally pick up the phone and, assuming people aren’t away on the ubiquitious “travelling”, then you’ll probably be face-to-face the next day. And, of course, you’ll have rung them on their mobile, the number of which will have been freely given — another difference. Yet, at the same time, marketing life is becoming dominated by a series of diary dates. Most recently Ramadan has played its part. While business does continue to be done, often it’s over the iftar buffet. And what is certainly true is that it would be the brave marketer who launches into any major new non-Ramadan initiative during the holy month. Just look how few meaningful announcements there have been in the last few weeks. Before Ramadan, the Gitex exhibition was ruling a big chunk of the marketing population’s lives. For all those involved, planning dominated thoughts for many months before. And then there was summer. While there is no longer the total shutdown of a few years before, August still sees a dramatic slowdown in the pace of life. The only thing that tends to keep people busy is that, with half of your colleagues around, those who remain need to provide cover for them. And life in the coming weeks is going to be dominated by diary dates too. First, there’s Eid. So plan on very little business being done at the far end of this week as many people will be hard to reach even if you end up working yourself. Then next week in Dubai, for instance, sees the first Marketing and Media Show. In theory, many of us will be chatting in the halls of the exhibition centre in what will become an annual fixture. Whether media folk take to that way of doing business will be an interesting social experiment to watch. And as we report on our news pages this week, the Dubai Airshow in three weeks’ time will be the next major marketing bonanza. So I’m afraid there is plenty of evidence that the diaries are already beginning to take over our lives. Which is a real pity. Being a communications business, the ease of contact and speed at which meetings can happen is a massive benefit. And while it does promote something of a culture of doing everything at the last minute, it also has a lot to do with the region’s can-do attitude, so often commented upon by newcomers to the region. As the size of the industry grows, it’s going to get harder to hang on to the spontaneous way of doing business. Sadly, that looks like the price of success. I wonder what Vincent Vega would make of it. Speaking of dates, it sounds like a good moment to remind you about the Campaign Awards. The entry form is repeated inside this week’s edition. Only 38 days left to enter, you know. Better get it into your diary.||**||

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