The Media and Marketing Show jumps shark

In Advertising, Dubai, Journalism, Marketing, Media, Photography on December 17, 2010 at 8:21 pm

With a display of books by the founder of Scientology, and a cowboy on his way to the tallest building in the world, the 2010 Media and Marketing Show has moved away from its roots.

Last week saw the Media and Marketing Show in Dubai. It was heralded, as usual, by press releases claiming record-breaking numbers of exhibitors, which stand up to very little scrutiny when compared to last year’s figures, and those of the year before.

It also hosted some of the more wierd attendees of any of the three (or is it four?) MMS I have been to.

I went along for the Al Arabiya debate on telecoms. Apart from being tied to the transmission of media (and marketing, come to think of it), telecoms has little do do with a media and marketing show. But since our cover story in January will be on telecoms, and since telecoms developments influence the way we consume media (as services sneak in from abroad, such as data plans, VoIP, etc. the region’s digital media plays catch-up with much of the West and East Asia), I went along. And listened, via simultanous translation, to the debate. Which was largely about expansion into other markets and expansion via new services, and was tempered by a scarcely concealed fear of competition from social networks, Apple, and just about anything else that is Out There on the internet.

My colleague, Sidra, came to cover a debate hosted by an Arabic-language newspaper covering Russia about the way Arabic-language media is perceived internationally. It was in Arabic and wasn’t translated, so the topic will have to remain a mystery forever.

Instead, Sidra and I took a turn of the show. And saw that this year it’s truly jumped shark.

One photographer had a stall where his prime exhibit was a cowboy from Alberta, Canada. It was the first time the cowboy, who was looking a little befuddled in a stetson and chaps, had been more than 500 miles from home. Mennie hoped to take him to the top of the Burj Khalifa and photograph him while he was here. We didn’t realise the whole story until we’d left and I read the press release. I’d thought the photographer and the cowboy were the same person. It would have been interesting to find out just what they both thought of Dubai. Presumably Mennie sees the UEA as the antithesis of Alberta.

I did, however, get a voice recorder out for the man on the next stand over. It was adorned with books and CDs bearing the author name L. Ron Hubbard in large letters.

I was taking photos of the stand when the man on the stand asked, “Do you want me to pose?” I asked him what was going on.

“These are a sort of fiction called ‘pulp fiction,'” he said, in the sort of automatically patronising voice you only hear from Americans at trade shows. “Have you heard of the term ‘pulp fiction’?”

I assured him I had.

“These books were published at a time when people wanted to get away from the real world, to escape. We call this ‘escapist literature.’ Have you heard…”

The voice recorder was out before I’d even managed to confirm that yes, I had heard of escapist literature. And I got an interview with a man who was very firm that these books had nothing to do with Scientology. (“That’s a very important question for you to ask, though.”) While I was interviewing him he called his colleague over. “Hey Claude, take a photo of me being interviewed by the local media. [To me] It’s a PRL world.”

Cowboys, L. Ron Hubbard… media and marketing has never been so interesting.

On the way back, Sidra and I stopped by the Drinks Technology Expo, to see bottles before they’ve been turned into bottles (they look like colourful test tubes — or dildos, depending on your point of view) and liquid nitrogen being added to bottles till they overflowed with white steam like props from Harry Potter.


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