VivaKi's Chris Williams adores Dubai's "la-la land"

I visited Dubai with my girlfriend prior to moving here and we were instantly attracted to its core strengths - sunshine, vibrant city life and a 0% tax rate, with an entire new city sprouting from the desert at a speed you have to witness to believe. At the Emirates Palace hotel, they will sprinkle real gold flakes on your cappuccino for $20. This is la-la land.

Media environment

Diverse, cluttered, complex, yet simple. Dubai is the regional HQ for companies, but the aim for an advertiser is to reach consumers across the Arab-speaking world, with a focus on Saudi Arabia. Sheik-owned TV and print dominate, and there is a lack of credible research. Managing growth and controlling inflation are the biggest challenges.

Media owners and agencies

The market is expanding rapidly and this creates a feel-good factor. But attracting and retaining talent is a challenge. The majority of media owners rarely attend a meeting armed with a compelling sales pitch document. It's coffee, cigarettes, small talk and a friendly smile, followed by "and by the way, I expect 50% revenue growth and 25% rate increases - a privilege I extend only to you, as you are my friend".


It is embryonic but growing swiftly. Web penetration across the region is only 21%, so the mass migration from print and TV has not yet occurred.

Culture and social scene

Dubai's population is 90% expatriate and going out is the norm. The city has a buzzing social scene. Brits are a minority in media, with the Lebanese and Indians in the majority. Everyone mixes easily and well.

Main differences

The digital tsunami has not yet struck. Personal relationships are everything in the Arab-speaking world and, consequently, people in Dubai are better at managing and maintaining relationships.

One thing we can learn from Dubai

It shouldn't take 19 years and $8bn to build an airport terminal.

Chris Williams is strategic buying director of VivaKi MENA

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