Welcome to the era of accountability


Written by Nicolas ChidiacMonday, 20 April 2009

Time to stand up and be counted

There has been no shortage of criticism on Dubai’s marketing zeitgeist. Beyond that dispensed by the pompous westerner whose sole motive was to bask in the reflected glory of the home he couldn’t make it in, a lot of the criticism was well warranted. We got lazy, Dubai was doing such a good job of marketing itself that it didn’t matter what we did, everyone won anyway. There was no such thing as zero-sum game. Anyone who ever remembers downloading a cheat code that made their shooter invincible knows exactly what I’m talking about. You simply didn’t have to be creative or talented to win. More so, I think many of us have networked enough to confirm the notion that you might even get along quite nicely by being daft.

As a consequence, the need for risk, an important prerequisite for creativity, became absent. Only a sadistic fool would roll a dice while lying on his six figure salary, guaranteed bonus and Jumeirah Jane and all while meeting his quotas without breaking a sweat.

No need for the risk associated with differentiation. Instead, we had a plethora narcissistic TV spots that looked as different as two Lebanese women hanging off a bottle of champagne. In fact, Dubai’s halo was so powerful that your brand could waste millions of Dirham’s vomiting all over its highways and you’d still sell out apartments overnight. Yesterday, Dubai was kicking so much ass that we looked like heroes sitting on its shoulders pretending our little pencils made a difference in the battle.

Today, the sun shines on a very different place. A Dubai that smells different, sounds different and looks different. We all see it, read it, hear it, smell it, talk about it and worry about it. ‘It’s bad’, I was told by a left brained econometrician who was one bonus shy of a sun-seeker, but after the dust clears, the echoes of schadenfreude reside and the smug greasy talentless Marketing Director who came up with the line ‘really real real-estate’ disappears, a new face for Dubai shall emerge; a better one. A place where talent and hard work are rewarded and just showing up to work won’t cut it anymore. No longer will brands get by without distinguishing themselves, which will heighten the threshold and need for risk and consequently creativity. Marketers that go the extra mile for people will thrive over those that get lazy. Agency creatives will now have to spend more time thinking about the behavior of real people and less time thinking about the behavior of Philip Thomas. Trust will play a monumental role and brands that act not just advertise will triumph. Both media and advertising agencies will now be asked to do something they haven’t done properly in a while, their jobs.

You remember those conversations we used to have when we’d complain about Dubai not being a real city. We’d say it was too perfect and resembled Pleasentville?  Well voila…Welcome to the era of accountability

Nicolas Chidiac is the Planning Director at Leo Burnett Dubai



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