There’s lots for Qatar to learn from time travel

I’ve always fancied indulging in a spot of time travelling. Imagine being able to pop back a few years and stop yourself just before you inadvisedly took your boss at face value when he asked for your honest opinion of his management skills.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  January 29, 2006

|~||~||~|I’ve always fancied indulging in a spot of time travelling. Imagine being able to pop back a few years and stop yourself just before you inadvisedly took your boss at face value when he asked for your honest opinion of his management skills. Or, on a slightly more businesslike level, being able to intervene just before your company’s board of directors took a disastrous strategic decision that you’re still living with. That’s the great thing about being in the young markets of the Middle East. You can take a look at the mistakes and lessons of other markets and apply them without having to learn the hard way. For instance, when one looks at the Dubai market, it’s possible to look at the market of the UK 20 years ago or the US just over a decade ago and predict how things are going to go. Hence the inevitabilities of print audit. And the same goes for Qatar. We investigate the market in today’s edition, starting on page 18. Similarities can be drawn with Dubai — all the roads being dug up at once, a booming media market, huge amounts of building work. Admittedly, things are on a different scale. With a population of less than a million, no wonder the market is only worth an estimated US$120 million or so — and that’s probably overstating things. But the same was true for Dubai just a few years ago — and that has helped take the UAE close to being a billion dollar media market — apparently overtaking Saudi Arabia in the process. Barring a disastrous crash, that’s a milestone that should be easily passed this year. The growth rate of Qatar is also impressive — at nearly 30% — and the driver of the Doha Asian Games should be a massive extra boost for the latter part of this year. But at the same time, Qatar needs to learn the lessons of Dubai and avoid the obvious pitfalls. Being so close, expectations are already high. One element to concentrate on is raising the game on the marketing front. Few network advertising, media or PR agencies are currently there on the ground, preferring to run things remotely from Dubai or elsewhere. Yet the lesson to learn is that the agencies doing best in Dubai now tend to be the ones who got into the market wholeheartedly and early. The same goes for the independents. And some of those that are there need to lift themselves up to international standards. You won’t, for instance, read very much about the Doha Games in our report. That’s because, as I write, six days after our first request, and despite repeated reminders to Bates PanGulf, the agency supposedly handling media relations for the games, we’re still waiting for answers to our questions. By comparison, call the press office of London’s 2012 Olympics which is, after all, still six years away, and the journalist will get a full response in hours. By hosting the Asian Games, Doha will inevitably draw these sorts of international comparisons — the same will go for the country’s marketing industry too. And, as we report on our front page today, the really forward-thinking are already looking to the next big thing — in this case Iran, Iraq and the undeveloped markets of North Africa. One or two media owners and agencies are already going for it — Dubai’s Wunderman and the Beirut-based Pikasso spring to mind. But it won’t be too long before the international networks are going to need to give this one some serious thought. In much the same way that some of them are already regretting not getting into China earlier, the same could well be true for this region, and within a decade. The case studies are there to see — the investment will be worth it. It will be much cheaper than needing to invent a time machine later on.||**||

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