Aprons & Hammers + a media summit

Spent the afternoon at a digital media summit held by an international agency. Last year I went to this and recall being riveted, leaning forward and taking page after page of notes. This year, however, I left halfway through the event. That’s not to say it wasn’t well-organized or interesting content. On the contrary, I still found it very informative and was still leaning forward with curiosity.

The speakers, Mike Walsh from Australia, Osman Sultan from DU UAE and Jeff Cole from USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future, shared their insight on mobile, the use of tablets and screens and how the world engages with the web. I couldn’t see myself applying a lot of what they shared, however, in my own brand. I found some of it a little TOO forward-thinking to be honest. Maybe I just wasn’t ready for some of the “future” talk. So I left.

I did learn a few new things today, though:

  • People in China burn paper offerings fashioned after Gucci shoes, paper cellphones and Louis Vuitton bags for the Qingnming Festival — “tomb sweeping day” — so that these material goods will join their dead relatives in the afterlife.
  • Behavioural targeting is narrowing down people’s habits to the point that they know us better than we know ourselves. Brands like TESCO and Target pay attention to shoppers purchases and recommend products and offers according to their habits. TESCO realized young men were buying a bottle of wine and a ready-made meal every Friday night for their dates/couple’s night in. TESCO started offering a package deal with a digital movie rental discount for people who bought this combination of products. This is further reason for couples to diversify the way they spend their Friday nights. Go have a picnic, y’all, don’t let the marketers get to you!
  • Young men in Saudi are using all new tactics for digitally picking up — they post their BBM codes on the sides of their cars! Mind you, here in Dubai I’ve had guys hold up their phone numbers on pieces of paper while driving past me on the highway. In Saudi they also use Bluetooth to communicate in public places. In fact, a male friend of mine used to visit Saudi and would come back with stories of all the men who would try to contact him when he put on his Bluetooth in the mall.
  • Women working in UAE media dress very well and look perfect. The men also put a lot of effort into their hair and suits.

Okay that last part was not directly mentioned by any of the speakers but it’s my own lessons from attending several events in the region, each one with impeccably dressed attendees! It’s definitely a challenge trying to figure out what to wear to these things.

The speaker I most enjoyed was Jeff Cole. I wanted to stalk him down and talk to him afterwards, simply pick his brain because he seemed to have such a wealth of information floating in that head of his. He spoke completely off-book, sharing at lightening speed anecdotes and statistics mixed with dry jokes and sarcasm. Such a funny guy, I’d love to have him as a professor. As soon as he got up there and started talking in that drawn out nasal voice, almost whiny, I knew I’d like him. My kinda guy. He walked past my table during lunch and I had half a mind to tower over his plate and ask him question after question while he chowed down. But of course I didn’t.

The rest of my day was spent working remotely and running a few errands. In the evening I met up with an acquaintance visiting from Muscat and another friend, and we ordered a bunch of food at Aprons & Hammers here in Dubai at the Mina Seyahi Hotel. I’ve been here a couple of times before and although I’m never disappointed in the food, I still have yet to be wowed. Especially for the price. It’s not extremely expensive but it was unanimous that the meal, which came up to around 300 AED each of us including a bottle of wine, was not good value for money. The jumbo shrimp were tasty without the sauce and the steamed crab lacked flavour but the real kicker was the 250 AED lobster thermidore. It was drenched in a creamy sauce that made it almost inedible. I, hungry, still picked at it while my friends preferred to wait for dessert. We left half a lobster on the table! The molten chocolate cake was delicious in comparison while the cheesecake was over-refrigerated and seemed like it had been kept in there for a few days. All in all, very hit and miss. We loved the setting, though, especially the open windows with the breeze coming into the boat.

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