Dubai’s dot on the map just got that bit bigger

With all eyes on Dubai, Tim Addington asks what the long-term legacy of the IAA World Congress will be for the emirate

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By  Tim Addington Published  March 26, 2006

Dubai’s dot on the map just got that bit bigger|~|closeup200.jpg|~|Centre of attention… IAA world president Joseph Ghossoub|~|When Dubai was named as the host city for the 40th International Advertising Association World Congress during a meeting in Jaipur, India, in 2004, few imagined the work involved in staging the industry’s flagship event, certainly not Joseph Ghossoub. In an interview in last week’s Campaign, the now world president of the IAA described the job at hand as “humungous”, adding: “I had no idea of the amount of work, the amount of preparation, the amount of trouble and problems you go through to get this congress package together.” It is the first time the city has played host to around 2000 marketing and creative bosses from some 68 countries and, as well as showing them a good time, organisers of the congress wanted them to leave as ambassadors for the city and its rapidly developing advertising industry. Ghossoub says: “It is a big honour. This is a big seal of approval of Dubai’s position in the advertising, marketing and media world.” But once the last of the international delegates has flown home after a whirlwind three days of speeches, dinners and meetings, questions will be asked about the legacy of hosting the IAA World Congress in Dubai. Avi Bhojani, group chief executive officer at Bates PanGulf, says the congress recognises the city’s growing importance on the international business stage. “The fact that the IAA is happening in Dubai is a further vindication of its position as the business capital of the emerging world,” he claims. “Emerging markets such as Russia, China and India need a role model for economic transition, which Dubai shows them.” His comments are backed by Vikram Naidu, co-chief executive officer for Saatchi & Saatchi MiddleEast, who says that the IAA coming to Dubai sends a signal to the wider world that Dubai has grown up and is becoming more important both regionally and internationally. “You have to accept that Dubai has become the ad capital of the Middle East. It used to be Lebanon, now it is Dubai, and the IAA coming here adds credibility to what we are doing and will help us to advance what we’re doing,” he says. “I think it will also help to raise the bar in terms of standards, in terms of creativity, planning, strategy, and of how we give added value to the clients themselves. Clients are becoming more demanding and more savvy and we need to match their expectations.” Bhojani also claims that the congress will help attract much needed international talent to Dubai to help the industry grow faster. “In other trades Dubai is getting the best guys in. In marketing, PR and advertising that’s not the case yet. That’s not to say that we’re being lazy, but we’re not getting the talent we deserve. I think that the IAA will open up the pool of talent, as there will be a global spotlight on Dubai — hopefully we will get some good international coverage as well.” As well as attracting international talent, he argues that the IAA also needs to become more active in nurturing local Emiratis into the industry. “How many UAE nationals do we have? What I would like to see is more indigenous talent being involved in the IAA. For example, maybe at the colleges where young nationals are studying marketing or graphic design it would be an idea to have an IAA presence there. Also, it would be good for IAA affiliated companies to start taking on more national interns — that’s a way of making the local industry more sustainable.” The two-year presidency of Ghossoub as the head of the IAA is also seen as a positive factor in establishing Dubai as a creative centre. Ghossoub says: “I will carry the Middle East with me wherever I go. I will be an ambassador for the area.” Naidu says: “It’s a good thing for a small city like Dubai to export the boss of a local agency as the president of the IAA. I think it’s a big deal. I think that, one, it shows that we’re doing something right and, two, it’s giving the opportunity to a small country to say that they can make a big difference to the way we advertise across the world. “If you talk about attracting success, then I think that Dubai has already done that. “All the big boys are already here. It is already a city that is making a lot of noise and I think that’s going to increase.” In his opening address to the Congress, Ghossoub told delegates it was their opportunity to “see, touch and feel the new Middle East”, adding: “This is the hub of the communications industry in the region, and a bridge into the new Middle East.” The benefit to Dubai in hosting the World Congress will take months, if not years to realise, but for four days, the eyes of the creative world were firmly planted on the emirate. Naidu says: “We are already on the international stage — the legacy of the IAA will be that Dubai’s dot on the world map will be that much bigger.”||**||

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