Dubai Consumer Mirror

Monday, October 31, 2005

Turn that Radio off please!

Radio broadcast industry in Dubai have picked in the last couple of years. The introduction of ARN has also spiced up the competition by adding 4 or 5 new station to the airwaves. Today, if you tune into any station, you can listen to programs, talk shows, news analysis, competitions ..etc. Unlike the good old days when FM was only music, news maybe once or twice a day, then more music (i miss that sometimes).

One thing i am sure everyone has noticed lately is the annoying frequency of radio spots. They are just too many. I once counted the number of radio ads aired straight in a raw; 4 minutes! Thats an average of 8 friggen spots.

That doesn't bother me all the time, as some of the ads are entertaining, well thought of and produced and sometimes carry a jingle that could stick in your head for the rest of the week.

Sadly though, its more then often that i have to suffer from really RAELLY bad quality radio ads. Where do i start from? how about insulting to the human intellect, really bad choice of Arabic or English messages, bad grammar, annoying jingles .... (i can go on!)

But what REALLY bothers me about radio advertising in the UAE is mainly two things. (1) how racist some of radio spots can be and (2) the lack of public service ads.

I will write more about (2) in a following post. But as for (1), some radio stations productions really need to attend a couple of cultural sensitivity training session to know a bit more about affirmative action and culture, racial and sexual stereotyping, discrimination and tolerance.

Here are some examples:

1. In several food stuff ads (especially products targeted to the UAE national consumer), you hear the VO of subcon-arabic speaker talks about his bosses infatuation with [insert BRAND X of rice, chicken, tea ...etc], and how his "ARBAB" will kick his ass if he doesn't prepare [BRAND X] well enough..

2. In a fast food restaurant ad, its always a a Tagalog-english speaker taking orders and asking questions like: "you want flens flyiz with dat?" or "you want up-size?"

3. In the majority of radio ads, women do nothing but shop or tell their husbands about a shop or a mall on SALE..

4. All cab drivers speak in either Urdu-English or Urdu-Arabic!

... there is a lot more ..

So, could anyone please inform these radio producers and their clients that they are walking on really thin ice and a big fat legal suit is waiting at the bottom of that deep pond?


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Direct Mailing

I just received a direct marketing email today with the subject line: "A Great Opportunity for your Organization to Stand Out as a Leader in the Regional Economy"

Great! my company, a pure-play IT systems integrator, would like to get a slice of that.

The email -which was not SPAM; but targeted to me with all my contact details- is pasted below... Why don't you find out for yourself and see if i should participate or not!

Note that we are, with all modesty, leaders in IT networking, digital storage, disaster recovery, Oracle ERP solutions, IT outsourcing and many other areas in technology...


From: **************************
Sent: Saturday, October 29, 2005 10:19 AM
Subject: A Great Opportunity for your Organization to Stand Out as a Leader in the Regional Economy


I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation for your organization’s efforts in developing the regional economy and contributing to its growth.

It is a pleasure to invite you to join the ‘GCC Dates and Palm Conference’ as a sponsor. Organized by ******** Conferences, the event will be held on the *** December 2005 in Dubai, UAE.

...this conference will provide an in-depth understanding on the economic significance of Dates Palm cultivation, international Dates market opportunities and strategies for targeting global markets. The main topics for discussion include: the recent developments in research and technology, fostering international cooperation on different aspects of the Date Palm chain and the latest pest management strategies...

...the conference will also discuss on the Agriculture and Fisheries industries in the GCC region and aims to provide extensive knowledge in all aspects of the Fishing and Agriculture Industry, focusing the economic importance of these sectors to the region. will introduce tools and techniques that support increased production, surface new ideas on international market demands, provide an opportunity to network with farming and marketing experts and analyze how the Fishing and Agriculture sectors can be much better contributors to the economic development of the region.


Thank you and Best Regards,

Executive Manager, ******* Conferences


Another great moment in Middle East's marketing industry ;)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

RANDOM POST - 800 4353

According to TimeOut Dubai, volume 5, issue 17 (Oct 20th - 27th), page 15, the number above is the toll free number dedicated by Dubai Police to report road offenders. According to the article, this 800-number is one of the best kept secrets. I personally don't think it should stay this way at all. I saved it on my speed dial.

The article also mentioned that if the police receive three calls (complaints) about the same license plate number, "they'll track down the driver and either warn, fine or prosecute them". Thats really working for me; i already made a couple of calls today. HA HA HA HA *Dr. Evil's evil laugh*

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Branding in the ME

Unfortunately, a larger number of Middle East businesses have the completely wrong conception of branding. Many, if not most, see branding as "the company logo" - its way much more than that.

Branding is the organization's philosophy in dealing with everything and everybody. The way the organization interacts with its customers, its employees and the community. The way customers feel after experiencing the organization's product or service. Its also the organization's office environment, corporate culture and the level of involvement the company has with the community and the industry as a whole.

A set of perceptions, feelings, thoughts and emotions, all combined together to give you a sensation that is unique to any organization. That what makes a successful brand, not just a colorful logo.

A crash-course on Branding in the region through an interview with Landor's executive director by AMEinfo's Lisa Creffield, who was asking the right questions to give you a comprehensive definition of branding in the region in less than 2 minutes!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Industry Gossip - PR agencies, clients and Ramadan

A journalist friend of mine called me a while back telling me how him, along with a bunch of other arab/muslim journalists, are planning to boycott an event organized by a Japanese household brand and along with its PR agency.

Apparently, the agency sent out a media invitation last week inviting all journos for a "dinner" event taking place at 7:30pm! "SOMEBODY, STOP THE PRESS"

Is the Jabal Ali based client so busy playing his own game console to realise its actually Ramadan and 7:30 PM is not only too close to Iftar (5:50ish), its also around time for Ishaa followed by Taraweeh prayers (lasts 20 to 30 minutes)?

And the agency - known for its great fortunes for promotional activities in seven industries - they should know better than allowing their client to walk right into a PR blunder like this one.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


While cruising on Jumeirah beach road last night, i witnessed the diver of this

... flashing, tailgating and bullying the helpless driver of this

Not a fair match don't you think? Seems like the truck driver is suffering from some kind of frustration. Kindda reminded me of a myth girls used to spread around back in uni... "guys with big cars, have small weeners" :)

Friday, October 21, 2005

Random Posts

Some of my friends were wondering if my posts are too boring and people do not relate to it.

Unlike the majority of blogs around here, i am trying to maintain a specific theme for this one. Anything that relates to people's lives a consumers. Market trends, customer service related issues, thoughts on brand blunders, advertising, marketing and PR bad practices.

So, to spice up this blog a bit, i decided to introduce a new feature: RANDOM POSTS. Basically something to satisfy the gossip juggler, ranting researcher and the random rumor antennas.

So, stay tunned for random dosages of random posts coming to a blog near you!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Mall of the Emirates

It was my first trip the Mall of the Emirates couple of days ago. I have been hearing mixed opinions about the place. This my $0.02 worth:

Getting into the mall's parking lot was relatively smooth. The multi-story parking was quite ample, easy to navigate through and very well lit: something I am noticing more in newer malls these days. The individual car spaces, however, aren't as specious. So, if you are the paranoid type who worries about his car getting door dinged, suggest you look for a parking space between 2 European cars with market value of over Dhs 100k each.

Access to the shopping area hasn't been a problem as there were several entrances. I do propose you mark the shops next to the entrance you use, as this will be the only thing that will remind of the closest exist to your car on your way out.

As you go in, the overall 'finish' of the mall is definitely a plus. Flooring, rails and ceilings remained me of malls I've been to in KL, Malaysia; That’s another thing Dubai is trying to rip off from KL ;)

My first impression as a walked in: "seems like an upgraded version of Diera City Centre". But a closer looks was definitely in order and i did spot stores i didn't see before. One thing that attracted my attention is the shops layout. It is obvious that there is an effort to arrange shop locations as per activity - especially in the upper floor. The ground floor was the usual mishmash of shoes, accessories, cloths and random coffee shops. Of course its needless to mention the highly electronics appliances playing fields with their psychedelic florescent lights.

Some people may take this for granted, but the direction signs inside the mall were very clear and consistently visible. Why am i appreciating this? Try finding the public bathrooms in Madinat Jumeirah and you'll know what i mean :)

I am gonna keep my final verdict till the mall is fully operational, but I do have to say that overall feeling as i drove out of the place was content.

Monday, October 17, 2005

"there is a fly in my soup! BANG BANG BANG"

I mentioned it before that i am not into 7days newspaper anymore. However, a friend of mine pointed out an interesting report. I have to say that I have not seen so much winging and whining in a single page before.

It kindda made me wonder; has living in Dubai terned us into an "Idealsville" community where everything has to be perfect .. or else face the wrath of unsatisfied overinflated egos?

Could it be that in Dubai's quest to turn itself into a model city, has metamorphosed its inhabitants (especially the expats!) into a mob of perfectionists that are just waiting for the first waiter, cab diver or laundryman to make the tinniest mistake and hell will break loose!

What happened to "nothing/no one is perfect"? Why aren't we making any provision for humanity? what happened to the notion that we are different people with different backgrounds? Do people realize that they have to deal with others who were and are still NOT that fortunate to have a higher education, earn as much or learn Arabic, English or any second language for that matter? Why can't anyone see that Dubai is a big bowl of salad and "Tolerance" is the only dressing that will make it taste better.

Of course! We have to point out our flaws. Thats the only way we can fix things: by learning from our and others' mistakes. But i can never understand why we should yell, scream or give attitude to the delivery boy just because he was 10 minutes late? Is that gonna make your delivered pizza come sooner? Please don't shoot the messenger! Just pick up the phone, talk to the manager and tell him that your pizza was late and see what he will do about it ... if it happens again, simple: don't order from that place anymore.

I don't want people to think that i am trying to justify the shortcomings of some businesses or individuals - i am just urging you to have more compassion and understanding. The understanding that there are over 150 nationalities and maybe 10 times that number in different cultures, habits and ways of thinking.

So, for next time, if a cab driver took a wrong turn or decided to take a route you think is longer, remember he is a unique human being with a look on the world that is, most probably, different than yours ... oh and one more thing, he is definitely not out there to get you.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Cracking the TIIDA-ME code

Its all over the place - Outdoor lamp signs on Sh. Zayed road, website, print and on Radio! Several people asked me those last few days .. What the hell is TIIDA?

I googled it and this is what i found - looks like a nice car!

But still, it could be a coincidence. It wasn't enough, I had to make some kind of a link.

I found out that the owner of the website is this DIC based company. It seems they did work for Infinity Middle East (part of Nissan). But again, its not a smoking gun.

So, i searched a bit more and i found an online resume of an account manager who works in that same DIC company. According to the online CV, he is handling the Nissan Middle East interactive account ... Thats too much of a coincidence.

Me thinks that Nissan is trying to create the brand attributes (young, sexy, cool, trendy, hippy, iPOD happy..etc) before revealing the brand identity itself which is NISSAN.

Good luck with that!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Ramadan Tents

Why is it after visiting any Ramadan "Tent", I walk out feeling like there is a big sticker slapped my forehead with word SUCKER on it? I mean, is it only me that thinks this "Ramadan tent" setup is just getting way out of hand? You are welcomed with attitude the minute you hit the place, orders take an average of 30 to 45 minutes to arrive, there is always something wrong with the order, you have to break something to grab the waiter's attention, the prices are simply unbelievable, and there is always something wrong with the bill!

Also, since when do we have to pay a ticket to enter a coffee shop? A major hotel on Sh. Zayed road known for its Asian branches in SHANGhai, koREa, LAngkawi and other Far Asian cities - is actually charging (i think about Dhs 35 per person) just to get into the Ramadan tent. According to the hyper-tensed lady at the entrance, this fee doesn't cover any orders - its an entrance charge!

Yesterday, we walked into a tent in a RITZy hotel in the New Dubai area. Although the place was air-conditioned, it was REALLY warm, stuffy and humid. We asked for water and the waiter came back with an Evian bottle. I told him i will go for the good old local water that is clearly visible on all the other tables around ours. He brings our AQUA and after many desperate calls, the bill arrives. They charged me Dhs 25 for an Evian. I protested saying we had the cheap local alternative. The smart-ass waiter replied, "Evian, Aquafina.. all same brice here!"

I rest my case...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Vitamin (W)

Vitamin (W), noun, Acronym of Arabic term for WASTA (contact, influential person), found in most Arab public colonies, mainly underground. Can also be identified as ARBAB.

Considered one of the most needed nutrients any human can get. The following is a list of many great benefits this vitamin has to the body's physical and mental wellbeing:

1. It helps cure the side effects of long queues and waiting lines. As it has the ability to cut through the long chains of queue, and neglects large amounts of seats in waiting areas.

2. It eases pain caused by over-exposure to lower level employees, receptionists and secretaries.

3. It provides immunity against many common diseases, mainly: Red-Tapeoid and Bureaucratitus.

4. Acts as a catalyst to directly reach the desired result, person, reservation or discount. Works best during seasons of high demand and over-congestion at for the mentioned above.

5. It's extremely flexible and adaptable qualities allow this vitamin to operate in almost any environment known to man - police stations, municipalities, hospitals, airline offices, airports and any place 'big brother' can be found.

6. Known to work very well with other accelerating agents such as female gender and substances of alcoholic or intrinsic nature.

Make sure you get your dosage of Vitamin (W) today.

Earthquake in Pakistan and India!

Our hearts and thoughts with all those affected by this grave tragedy. If you have anything you can donate - Cash, food supplies, medicine, blankets ... contact the RED CRESCENT HUMANITARIAN LOGISTICS CENTER - UAE in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Syriana - BlockBuster shot in Dubai

Watch the trailer of the film George Clooney and Matt Damon shot some scenes off in Dubai ... see if you can recognise some places ... I wonder if the film will ever make it here ;)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Ramadan Kareem

The Holy month is here; I am so glad. Taraweeh, reading more Quran and being a goody goody virtuous Muslim.

There are other aspects of Ramadan in Dubai that are not too umm.. Ramadan-ish. Lets see if we can dodge the un-holy bits of Ramadan this year:

- The kick off with the Ramadan Karim SMS bombardment campaign - why doesn't anyone call anymore?

- Iftar on Shj-Dxb Highway: commuters will the first people who will break their fast once they hit the road at 7 am in the morning (road-rage iftar).

- The Sharjah-Dubai-Sharjah traffic jam festival that will witness a 300% expansion in size because EACH and EVERY employee will be on the 9 to 3 Ramadan timings

- Finding a decent place to have Iftar outside your house will be a painful mission for the first 3 weeks until you mark your favorite Ramadan buffet by the 4th week (end of Ramadan).

- Your wife, mother-in-law and aunt, each has a favorite Ramadan TV soap which you will be forced to watch, one after the other, for 30 days

- The last minute phone call to get a bottle of VIMTO happens only the minute you enter your home car park.

- The fight over the last kilo of Baklava at the Samadi's

- The humiliation you receive from the snobbish, part time receptionist outside this year's overpriced hip and trendy Ramadan tent.

- The verbal abuse by fasting smoker colleagues, friends, workers, family member and each fasting smoker in town.

- The Five Minutes Pre-iftar Formula One 30 day tournament.

... Other than that, I wish you all a very very holy Ramadan.