The six-week event held in February and March was Dubai's latest effort to promote itself as a tourist and trade destination and a gateway to the Middle East. The city is already a fast-growing center for international marketers' regional operations. In the last year, Dubai has attracted the regional marketing headquarters of IBM, Visa, Motorola, British American Tobacco and Reckitt & Colman.
Dubai also invests in a long-running worldwide ad campaign themed "Decide on Dubai." Ads by Tamra DMB&B, Dubai, are aimed at travelers but adapted for local markets so that Finns are sold the image of a sun-drenched Dubai while Indians hear about a shopping haven.
FUTURE ROLE IN QUESTION
Longer term, Dubai's role as a regional hub may be challenged by a restored Lebanon.
"As Beirut deteriorated, many Lebanese moved into the Gulf," said Kerry Rubie, Leo Burnett Co.'s group president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
"As Lebanon recovers, the big questions are will the Lebanese who are expats repatriate and who will run those [Dubai-based] businesses?" he said. "It's hard to find someone who lived in Beirut when it was the Paris of the East who prefers to live in Dubai."
Meanwhile, Dubai knows how to attract business. The Dubai Shopping Festival-which organizers plan to repeat next year-was backed by a $2 million TV and a $1.5 million print campaign.
"The objective was to create a simple communications task that was refreshing, different and memorable," said Avi Bhojani, exec VP of Pan Gulf Publicity, a Dubai-based agency that handled advertising and PR for the Shopping Festival Secretariat, the administrative body set up by the Dubai government to organize the festival. The creative team was flown to Singapore to work with Pan Gulf's international consultants, Batey, Singapore.
TV SPOT CONVEYS FUN
A TV spot made by VHQ in Singapore used computer-generated visuals and Arabic music to try to convey the fun of shopping in Dubai. The :30 ran widely on satellite TV across the Middle East.
Print work ranged from price-point ads for individual products to sector-specific ads focusing on cultural, sporting and leisure events as well as exhibitions and fairs. Ads appeared in pan-Arab and women's magazines and newspapers. The print budget was around $1.5 million for production and media costs.
More than 3,000 retail outlets participated, many offering sales, discounts, buy-one-get-one-free offers and other promotions. Dubai's gold merchants held a free nightly drawing to give away a $16,000 bar of gold and car dealer Al Futtaim Motors raffled off two Lexus cars a day.
Contributing: Laurel Wentz, London.