By Richard Abbott
The region’s media industry will converge on Dubai this week for the inaugural Marketing and Media Show. Richard Abbott previews the event
The media goes on show|~|dovoney200.jpg|~|“The view of many industry players is that this show, long term, could be another Gitex”
David Domoney, managing director of The Domus Group, the organiser of the Marketing & Media Show
|~|The industry exhibition has become something of a cliché. From the black satchel-style bags that identify you as a delegate to the useless branded nick-nacks that are given away by exhibitors, the regular exhibition-goer could be forgiven for thinking they are living in a corporate Groundhog Day.
But surely, the marketing and media industry, with its finger on the pulse of Middle East consumer trends, will avoid these cliches for the inaugaral Marketing & Media Show, which kicks off tomorrow at the Dubai International Exhibition Centre?
The organisers realise the pressure will be on.
“We will get cynics. We will get criticism. And we know we will not get it totally right first time,” says David Domoney, managing director of The Domus Group, the organiser of the Marketing & Media Show.
“But the view of many industry players is that this show, long term, could be another Gitex.”
It has a long way to go before it rivals the IT behemoth, which literally brings Dubai to a standstill each Autumn, but the very mention of the word shows the ambition that the organisers have for their new baby.
“If all parties support the show, it will be a real eye-opener and could revolutionise the industry in the future,” says Domoney.
And if you need any further confirmation of the potential that Domus sees in the event, Domoney has already booked three halls for the 2006 show, which will also take place in November. This will triple the floor space year-on-year. In addition, he has also booked the venue through until 2009 — although it’s a fair bet he hasn’t had to put a deposit down.
The show will have more than 100 exhibitors, spread over 70,000 square feet of conference floor. It is hoped that 10,000 people will visit over the three-day duration to see stands from firms including Promoseven, Saatchi & Saatchi, BBC World and Aljazeera.
Domoney believes that the exhibition is a sign of how far the marketing industry has progressed in the region.
“There is no comparison between the industry as it is now, and how it was five years ago,” he says.
“Nowadays, if you look at the infastructure of business here in the Gulf, there is not a single element of commercial life where marketing does not enter the equation. Branding is now a word that exists on a day-to-day basis.”
But he is surprised that, of all industries, marketing and media has not been effective in marketing itself to the wider world and has not yet pulled together in this way. “It’s a case of the cobbler’s children wearing worn shoes,” he says.
His views are echoed by Reda Raad, managing director of TBWARaad, who is mystified by the lack of togetherness in some areas of the industry.
“The more we get together, the better,” he says. “If you speak to someone from another agency, it doesn’t mean they take all your secrets away, it can be a positive experience.”
Domoney agrees that there is a certain element of reluctance from advertising companies, for example, to put their cards on the table for other companies, possibly rivals, to see.
“Trying to persuade an advertising agency to promote itself at an exhibition is a completely new concept,” he says. For this reason, he expects many companies to visit as ‘observers’.
Once they have convinced themselves that there is nothing to be lost from exhibiting at the show, they in theory will sign up for next year. This is the logic behind the decision to book three halls, rather than one, for 2006.
Radha Mukherji, executive director at OHI DDB Muscat, is one of many delegates making the trip to Dubai from other GCC countries. She is hoping to make valuable contacts during a a two-day trip.
“Oman has recently been awarding licences for private radio and TV channels so I am hoping to meet some potential partners,” she says.
“I am also interested in seeing people from the direct marketing side of the business.”
Exhibitors at the Marketing & Media Show will include a broad range of companies from the media industries, including marketing, advertising, media production and new media specialists. It will also see companies involved with finance, design, development, marketing, operation, supply and service for the media sector.
||**||The media goes on show|~||~||~|The show forms part of what is being billed as International Marketing Week. The show runs until Wednesday, overlapping with the two-day Marketing Forum, an established event run by Gray Business Communications, publisher of Gulf Marketing Review.
The forum, now in its sixth year, will see a panel of international and regional speakers debate the key marketing issues of the day. The theme for this year’s forum is ‘Media as a Marketing Tool’.
TV journalist Tim Sebastian will be at the centre of this year’s forum. He will chair a session asking the blunt but increasingly relevant question ‘Can the media ever be free?’ and will also interview Choueiri Group chairman Antoine Choueiri — a rare opportunity to hear from the powerful boss of the Middle East’s biggest sales house.
Barry Gray, managing director of event organiser, Gray Business Communications, claims: “We have decided to take the proverbial gloves off. The media industry in the region has come a long way, but we believe they still have a way to go before they can claim to be operating at world class standards. We intend to leave no media stone unturned this year.”
While the forum has become an established event on the marketing and media calendar, Domoney has been working on bringing the debut show to life for three years.
One of his most significant hurdles was getting the backing of the government. This was overcome when Dubai Media City, which is operated by Shiekh Mohammed’s Dubai Holdings, indicated that it would be willing to support the event. “When we approached DMC three years ago they had a vision to develop their facilities in much the same way that we wanted to pioneer the Marketing & Media Show,” says Domoney.
DMC itself will be one of the biggest exhibitors at the show, with a 250 square metre stand, split into two levels.
“It is an ideal platform for Dubai Media City,” said Mohamed al Mulla, sales director of Dubai Media City.
“It reflects DMC’s strategic goals of facilitating growth and success of media companies, by offering this community an ideal environment and opportunity to interact.
“The show will attract companies in search of innovative media services, as well as international media companies seeking to explore opportunities in the regional market.”
More than half of the show’s visitors are expected to come from outside the UAE and Domus appointed agents in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia to encourage take-up.
Mohammad Mukhtar Al Fal, director of Fal Media Consultants, the agent in KSA, says: “The media in this industry is ready to progress to the next level, and that can only happen by developing better business links with regional clients.”
And this is a key attraction of exhibitions. Valuable contacts are made and, for those with something to sell, it is a not-to-be-missed opportunity to get your message in front of the target audience. For that reason, several media owners will be using the show as a platform to launch their latest products and services.
Among them are Connector Publishing, which will unveil its new tourist magazine Discover Dubai, a spin-off from its well established A5-sized Connector.
And the Dubai-based Vesta Group will be launching its human transporter chariots as an advertising medium at the show.
Qatar broadcaster Aljazeera will give advertisers a sneak preview of its international English news service, which has alreasy made headlines by signing up UK broadcasting legend Sir David Frost as a contributor.
Hedi Smirani, head of marketing at Aljazeera Sport, says the key is getting the message across to a wider audience: “Aljazeera is looking to consolidate its presence not just in the region, but also on the global stage.”
Meanwhile, online marketing and media news portal Strategiy.com will use the show to launch its Arabic content services, which aim to increase its penetration into traditional Arabic speaking markets.
“Bearing in mind the dearth of quality Arabic online information, Strategiy.com is currently testing a comprehensive Arabic portal that will deliver real-time information to regional audiences, enabling local businesses to make empowered decisions about their media and marketing activities,” said Ahmed Nassef, general manager of maktoob.com.
All of these media owners have a strong story to tell, but they will have to compete with dozens of other exhibitors to get heard by the predicted — by Domoney at least — 10,000-strong crowd. But the key issue will be whether enough marketing directors and big spenders choose to show up to make it worth the exhibitors’ while.
Another Gitex? We’ll have to wait and see.||**||