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Image is everything

Image is everything

Does the Middle East media represent Arabs poorly? And if it does, how can this be fixed? Communicate reports.


December 25, 2009 9:44 by

Arabs have a media problem, apparently. The usual course of action for someone with a media problem would be to hire a slick PR firm to manage the communications flow, massage a few journos, and start creating some positive spin.

That’s not really a practical option for the 325 million or so people who make up the world’s highly diverse and varied Arab population. Besides which, the Arab media problem is not one of negative coverage so much as misrepresentation. For that reason UAE-based photo agency Arabianeye’s recent debate, “Viewing Arabia: representation of life in the Emirates in commercial media,” started off with a few handicaps.

Firstly, “life in the Emirates” is a pretty narrow representation of Arabia. Secondly, though narrow in terms of all Arabia, life in the Emirates itself is a hugely variable concept. And, thirdly, the commercial media is not a single entity. Communicate doesn’t sit down with Gulf News to chat about how many women with henna tattoos we featured this month.

All these points were made in the debate, held at Dubai’s ultra-trendy Shelter creative space. The five speakers comprising the panel were each allowed eight minutes in which to tackle the topic, after which they collectively fielded questions from the floor.

The panel’s big hitter from a marketing perspective was Kamal Dimachkie, managing director of Leo Burnett UAE, and he was all about self-deprecation. It’s the key, apparently, to winning people over, whether a love interest or an audience. He held up the TV show Freej (created by UAE national Mohammed Saeed Harib and featuring animated Emirati grannies) as an example of “how right you get it when you are the ‘self.’”

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