I should confess that I arrived in Dubai just a few months ago. But, from the moment you arrive, you sense Dubai is a city where entrepreneurs rule and anyone with a vision (and deep pockets) can make things happen. Everything in Dubai is big. From the world’s tallest building to the world’s biggest shopping mall. The same can be said for the ad industry. It’s a place for ideas; they’ve got to be big to stand out.
Dubai is populated by many expats. Emirates airline describes us as "globalistas" – the new world travellers. We are a blend of our travel experiences and a mishmash of cultures. Our agency has people from more than 25 countries, and this richness and diversity of talent make for fresh perspectives when it comes to problem-solving.
Retail is big in Dubai. All the world’s luxury brands and shopping experiences are here. Think of an iconic store and, chances are, it’s in Dubai. And retail tourism is growing.
Dubai holds events such as The Dubai Shopping Festival, a month of massive discounts when tourists fly in from China, Russia, the UK and the US. Retailers give away cars and gold bullion as shopping incentives, and these festivals spike activity for local marketers and agencies. Retail advertising is always busy, but it is particularly crazy during the sale periods of January and June.
Tourism and trade is the business focus of Dubai. With Expo 2020 coming to Dubai, the city’s ambition is to be the world’s number-one tourist destination. Last year, more than ten million tourists came to Dubai.
To thrive here, you have to disrupt and create big ideas that will be heard over the din of construction
Dubai is the business capital for the Middle East and many companies have their regional headquarters here. There are special zones that are home to media and tech giants, and where there is big tech, ad agencies usually follow, and so Dubai is also the region’s advertising hub.
The Dubai economy seems buoyant, which means many new-business opportunities for agencies. Property development is taking off again and the aviation industry is rising against the trend. Dubai has just opened a second international airport and built a new terminal in the existing airport, and Emirates is buying new planes.
As a regional trend, mobile is huge. The Middle East is the second-largest mobile phone market in the world; 525 million people used a mobile phone every month in 2013. Smartphone use nearly doubled between 2012 and 2013, and social media is now one of the most impactful media in the region.
In Dubai, we tend not to segment digital and mainstream any more. It’s rare for traditional advertising or social media to operate without each other.
The city is expanding rapidly and the advertising business is growing at pace. To thrive here, you have to disrupt and create big ideas that will be heard over the din of the construction sites.
Dubai is all about "big", and it’s getting bigger.
Rohan Young is the executive creative director at TBWA\RAAD