On the world’s centre stage, but only for a week

This week, the Middle East feels like anything but an advertising backwater making up just a couple of per cent of world spend. I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your attention that the International Advertising Association is in town. And a timetable that sees Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed, cabinet affairs minister Mohammed Al Gergawi, IAA world president Joseph Ghossoub and WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell all speaking before 11am on the first day, suggests that you’re looking at A-list speakers.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  March 19, 2006

On the world’s centre stage, but only for a week|~||~||~|This week, the Middle East feels like anything but an advertising backwater making up just a couple of per cent of world spend. I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your attention that the International Advertising Association is in town. And a timetable that sees Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed, cabinet affairs minister Mohammed Al Gergawi, IAA world president Joseph Ghossoub and WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell all speaking before 11am on the first day, suggests that you’re looking at A-list speakers. Which you are. The biggest names in the business are in town. We offer some more detail on the event in our Dubai Insider’s Guide, which comes with this edition of the magazine. Most likely it will be at least a decade before so many high-powered marketing and advertising types are all in the Middle East at the same time. Yet there are also signals that the region, and particularly Dubai, is moving up in the advertising world’s radar. Last week, I spent a pleasant hour or so in the company of Jean-Marie Dru, president and CEO of TBWA Worldwide. The company’s worldwide operating group was in Dubai for its regular meeting, which more usually takes place somewhere like New York, Paris or London. And their presence in Dubai just prior to the IAA was in the main a coincidence — most of them are not staying for the World Congress this week. But it was a powerful signal of their confidence in this market, and in local partner TBWA\Raad, that they felt it was worth their while coming over. What was interesting from Dru was that he took a slightly different stance to many worldwide CEOs. It's become something of a tradition for them to pop in and give the level of creativity in the region a good (and somewhat deserved) kicking. Dru, by contrast, predicts a gold Cannes Lion for TBWA\Raad within four years. An ambitious target, but perhaps achievable as the agency is doing increasingly good work. But for now, let’s make the most of the coming week. It’s not going to happen that often. Speaking of TBWA, our strategy analysis for Nissan Tiida this week may be the perfect example of how it’s possible to come up with a great media strategy for lousy creative. As Matt Blackborn makes clear in his verdict, it’s difficult to fault the media strategy. While there might be quibbles on whether OMD’s choice of media channels was sufficiently honed to deliver the best possible return on investment, it’s still so rare to see a properly integrated multiple medium campaign in this region, that huge credit is due. But, oh, the creative — not TBWA’s best work by a long way. For those that don’t remember, the radio portion of the campaign, a kind of faux Bridget Jones voiceover, was an attempt to portray a trendy girl about town. But as more than one person pointed out, with her talking triumphantly about eating only half an apple a day, it sounded more like a paean to anorexia — and would probably have been banned in more responsible markets. The fact that she came across as an entirely unattractive role model, and the working in of the brand was clunky, left it hard to see just who would want to emulate her. Worse though were the godawful stereotypes on the (functionally excellent) website. Lads who lurve the ladeez; chicks who lurve the guys. And then there was the invitation to the launch event on the beach, which still sticks in the mind several months later for its painful attempts to get down with da yoof. “Hey man, let’s score some ticks,” said one of the entirely unlovable cartoon characters on the invite. We might be getting better, but let’s not pretend we’ve already got there.||**||

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