Expect sand on the inchoate road less travelled

Inchoate is not a word I can previously remember saying out loud. I’m not even entirely sure how to pronounce it — in-coh-ate or inch-oh-eight? But inchoate is the best word yet to describe the state of the Middle East’s marketing industry. Frankly, nascent just wasn’t cutting the mustard any more. Now readers who’ve stuck with me all the way into this fourth paragraph, may be wondering what on earth I’m talking about.

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  April 16, 2006

|~||~||~|Inchoate is not a word I can previously remember saying out loud. I’m not even entirely sure how to pronounce it — in-coh-ate or inch-oh-eight? But inchoate is the best word yet to describe the state of the Middle East’s marketing industry. Frankly, nascent just wasn’t cutting the mustard any more. Now readers who’ve stuck with me all the way into this fourth paragraph, may be wondering what on earth I’m talking about. But one of the hardest things for those trying to get used to this market is the way it finds itself in such a constant state of change. (At this point, I should probably point out for those who haven’t swallowed a thesaurus that inchoate is simply a more pompous way of saying unfinished, by the way.) And wherever you’ve previously worked, the key to survival in Middle East marketing is to get yourself into a state of mind where you can live in an unfinished world and embrace the inchoate. One of my many bosses puts it this way. When you buy your new house in Dubai, the road probably won’t be built yet. You’ll have to get home by driving on sand — getting the properties built was the important thing, and the finesse will come later. It doesn’t hurt the car, but it does take a bit of getting used to. And, of course, it’s not a state of affairs that suits everyone. Similarly, if you want to work in this industry, you’ll have to get used to the fact that it’s not finished yet. You’ll be driving on the sand. And paradoxically, it’s the inchoate nature of the market — not just in the UAE, but in the likes of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and even Jordan — that creates some of the most regular refrains. A near cliché is that whenever a visiting agency bigwig pays a visit, they feature on our profile pages talking about the massive growth potential of the market. And, of course, there are the regular calls — from the bigwigs and from closer to home — for the increasing need for creativity. Even the big debate of the month on the ABC farce springs from the fact that there is no established audit culture here. Yet. And that’s the point. For all of the frustrations of working in this market – and there are many (poor PR, terrible radio advertising, corruption, censorship, self censorship and hopeless marketing come immediately to mind) — the consolation comes with the knowledge that it’s because it’s not yet finished. This means an opportunity that does not exist in most of the rest of the world. While we’re still driving on sand, the rest of the world is on tarmac. For some it’s a multi-lane highway, and for others, a pothole-riddled lane, but either way, they’re stuck with it and it isn’t going to change very much. Not us. While the roads are still sand, we can have a hand in deciding their quality, their width and even their direction. That’s why the frustrations of the market are worth putting up with — if we get it right, most of them are only going to be temporary. And that’s why inchoate may just turn out to be my favourite word. And while we’re on the subject of words, a plea to PR people about my least favourite word. While “synergies” were bad, and “solutions” worse, I am disturbed to see a painfully large crop of “turnkey solutions”. Inevitably the phrase is used by people looking for ways of dressing up the rather boring and simple job they’re doing as if it’s something much more significant. So I’ll offer you a deal. I’ll stop using inchoate. You stop saying turnkey solution. And be warned. The zero tolerance on turnkey solutions starts here. Any more transgressions, and we’ll set The Spin on to you. ||**||

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