Letter from: an expat in Dubai

Expat in Dubai

Moving house is always a chore.
In the last ten years I’ve lived in London, Sydney, Singapore and Dubai. Elderly relatives will tell you that they’ve only moved house twice in their lifetime and that was only from one street to the next and back again. When you start to move country with a young family, there’s an element of understanding that kicks in, it really is a chore, no matter how much help is given. Finding a new home, a new school, a new car and settling in all takes time. The key to it all is to focus on every silver-lining and not the cloud - a skill which takes time to hone.

Every cloud dissipates when the sun is shining.
Every city I’ve lived in has its own reason to be exciting. I must believe that or I wouldn’t have accepted to move. And sometimes it’s not the obvious reasons. Sydney is full of sunshine and beautiful people, but it was the opportunity to help the traditional advertisers adapt to a new landscape where digital-meets-shopper marketing that excited me. Singapore has great food and welcoming people, but it was the fast-growing neighbouring countries that excited me most. Dubai is the business hub in 'an untapped region', but it’s the eagerness of businesses to replace traditional marketing with data-inspired marketing that keeps me here.

Every country has its own cultural nuances - both explicit and implicit.
Nuances however blatant are not really explicit, or we wouldn’t call them a nuance! And this is always the case in places where the local culture doesn’t like to say ‘no’. Well, never explicitly. This is the case in many parts of the Far East. And it is here too in the United Arab Emirates. I can’t talk about the Gulf Co-operation Council as a whole, because I’ve not been everywhere. Not yet!

It takes time to listen correctly to what you can hear. To misquote George Bernard Shaw, business English brings together many nations, all divided by a common language. We all have a different take on what works and what doesn’t, what is 'normal' and what isn’t.

Universally, digital media is still too often an add-on to traditional media.
When I moved from Sydney to Singapore, the ‘make-my-TV-ad-go-viral’ brief was still alive and well down under for some creative agencies. When I moved from Singapore to Dubai, agencies were still using the one banner ad for all the available audiences online. Thankfully, things are changing. Businesses, brands and their agencies are starting to create unique stories for customised audience segments. And so they should, it’s so easy now to automate stories that go out to smaller groups, linking banners, video and emails to create cross-device, niche storytelling.

Dubai is the centre of the universe.
Dubai. The fastest changing city in the world. Nowhere else have I seen the build-it-and-they-will-come mantra work so effectively. The kind of place where pithy buzzwords can become a reality. Just think of the old Emirates strapline ‘Keep Discovering’ and the new(er) line ‘Hello Tomorrow’. Both fit brand Dubai and its airline well.

And that age-old song, Forever Young, should be playing when you come and visit us here: this is the Never-Never Land where Peter Pan never grows up. It’s exciting to be here. This city is the gateway to the commercial and tourist hub of the GCC and everyone seems to know that. Exciting times ahead. So, when are you coming to visit?

This piece was written by Marketing Society Middle East committee member, James Welch, who is managing director at BLUE LOGIC, a digital and data advisory based in Dubai.

To find out more about the launch of The Marketing Society Middle East or to become a Founding Member please contact Alasdair Hall-Jones. Join the conversation #msocmiddleeast

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