The Land of Possibilities

I just completed a week’s visit to the United Arab Emirates. While there, I took part in the announcement of an acquisition and also joined the regional meeting of our South Asia, Middle East and Africa (SAMEA) leadership team. During the week, the recurring thought in my head was that the UAE truly is the land of possibilities. As a country that is only 43-years-old, it is remarkable in terms of both what has been built and its aspirations for the future. Yes, its richness in natural resources has enabled the development to date but, as the government thinks and plans for the future, it is very much investing in new technologies and industries that will prompt a diversified, knowledge-based economy.

Our announcement centered on the acquisition of Dubai-based DABO & CO. The firm has a staff of 65 and was founded 10 years ago by sisters Camilla and Lucy d’Abo. In relatively quick order, they built a multi-award winning firm specializing in integrated brand marketing that encompasses everything from media relations to comprehensive event staging and management. Based from one office in Dubai, they service clients in multiple countries in the region.

In visiting the DABO offices to meet staff with Rob Holdheim, CEO South Asia, Middle East and Africa, we found a fantastic environment that culturally felt identical to Edelman. The DABO space is modern, open and engaging. The team matched the environment as we had a good conversation about the opportunity that lies ahead for us together to introduce Communications Marketing, where we earn – not demand – the audiences’ attention, to the region.

Later in the day Edelman hosted our new colleagues for a meet and greet. The entire day was a great reminder to never underestimate the power of focusing on culture when completing an acquisition.

After a fast-paced interview on The Business Breakfast we hit the road to Abu Dhabi. Three years ago I was struck by the expanse of desert between the two cities. This visit it seemed like Dubai had expanded significantly toward its neighboring Emirate and Abu Dhabi certainly expanded northward to Dubai.

Abu Dhabi is home to the seat of government and is center of much of the R&D taking place in the country. It also is building ties to many other parts of the world, as Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi* opens and the Louvre Abu Dhabi* prepares for opening. The growth of the city is truly remarkable. During my previous visit, a trip to the Emirates Palace was to find a property largely on its own. This trip, just across the street are four striking mixed-use residential towers and a number of other buildings. A city within a city built in 36 months.

The remainder of my visit involved catching up and learning about the significant progress and first-rate work colleagues are leading with our operations in Johannesburg, Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore, along with our UAE operations.

The spirit of Edelman in the region is a wonderful mix of those born and raised and those who have come from all over the world to participate in the deep traditions of rich and diverse cultures. This combination is a powerful recipe in this land of possibilities.

Matthew Harrington is Edelman’s global chief operating officer.

*Edelman clients