Denying the recession in Dubai. Can Sheiks embrace cheap chic?

March 12, 2009

"Sahib, you might want to fly commercial."
“Sahib, you might want to fly commercial.”

A client of Euro RSCG in Dubai asked my opinion about advertising luxury goods. I answered by suggesting we reexamine luxury shopping in the face of global economic crisis. I told her that right now in America people of means (or former means) are downplaying, if not eliminating, many unnecessary costs, especially luxury items. We either don’t buy the Rolex or are putting it in safekeeping (i.e. out of sight), if not selling the damn thing on EBay. I warned her that wearing bling might now come across as vulgar.

She disregarded the thought. “Arabs are not worried about appearing vulgar. They like to flaunt their success.”

Many of the outlandish towers in Dubai give credence to this view. Opulence and public displays of wealth are commonplace here. Fascinating then, and somewhat disturbing, how certain Arab nations can view American consumer culture with such disdain.

Bearing in mind each emirate is wildly different, it seems like Dubai is in a bit of denial –about both the recession and the war a few doors down. With a whopping 80 percent of the population comprised of ex-pats (mostly Indian, French & English), this creates several existing realities: one that the Arab papers report and another on CNN.

Back to the question about luxury goods. Clearly, there is still plenty of money in the region. Oil and real estate represent crazy sums of it, even in recessed times. But if the bubble has not burst, there is no question it is leaking. Many of Dubai’s glitzy towers remain vacant, while countless others have halted construction. How long can the wealthy Arab owners maintain their grandiose demeanor before even they become embarrassed by it?

Probably a while longer. I’ve been told that the modern Arab world has not ever experienced a recession. Owning up to one is unlikely in the near term.

Still, look at the front page of today’s Herald Tribune. The headline reads: “New face of homeless in America.” The story is about members of our middle class losing everything. On the other side of the page is an ad for a gold and platinum Gucci watch. The bitter irony seems hard to avoid, even for a sheik.



8 Responses to “Denying the recession in Dubai. Can Sheiks embrace cheap chic?”

  1. Is there any buzz going on there about the Tennis Channel not airing the UAE/Dubai tournamemt because they refused entry to an Israeli woman who qualified on political/religious grounds?

    I think Dubai could be find itself in danger of a new “We won’t play Sun City” type of campaign. Perhaps Little Steven will write a song entitled “Dubai Don’t.”

  2. SRP said

    No discussion of the tennis snafu.
    More denial or censorship or both.

  3. Zak Whby said

    “Arabs are not worried about appearing vulgar. They like to flaunt their success.” How pathetic you are. How ignorant you are. Why don’t you shut this ugly website… it’s not worth the pixels on my screen.

  4. SRP said

    Number 1, that’s what she told me.
    Number 2, you have a lot of pixels on your screen.

  5. “Why don’t you shut this ugly website… it’s not worth the pixels on my screen.”

    In the old days of newspapers and magazines, the last gasp of outrage would be expressed as “…and you can cancel my subscription!”

    As the late un-stupid conservative editor and writer William F. Buckley, Jr. would tell his pissed off National Review subscribers, “cancel your own goddamn subscription!” (later the title to one of his books).

    In this age, while Zak does have ample pixels, it might be suggested he have them re-form and re-populate at a place more to his liking.

  6. SRP said

    Lot of extremists out there.

  7. tony malcolm said

    Stefan, just thought I’d send yo this link to Matchbox cars successful advertising of the past. I think the most popular vehicle they’ve created is a bandwagon, don’t you think?

  8. SRP said

    Some are exactly the same.
    All are fake.

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