7,810 Milesby Matt E.
Matt joins us as Social Activation Manager in our Dubai office. Welcome him to the family with a friendly tweet: @meontap
So the conversation went something like this:
Me (to my dad): I have an opportunity to work for Carrot Creative, a Brooklyn-based social media agency that works with brands like Red Bull, Disney, Budweiser, NewsCorp, Jaguar and Ford and I think I'm going to take it. Dad: That sounds like a good opportunity. Moving to New York is a pretty big step. Me: .... Dad: What's wrong? Me: The job is actually in the UAE. Dad: ....Wow. That's far!?!
This conversation echoes many similar conversations that I've had with friends and family. Most understand my reasoning for wanting to make the jump to work for Carrot. From a purely business perspective, it's a logical fit for me after investing nearly nine years of my career in digital and legacy marketing alongside some of the best brands in the U.S. Likewise, Carrot's reputation, global brand portfolio, work in the social space and company culture are among the best in the industry. Yet in conversation, both casual and intimate, I am often faced with explaining just why I have chosen to move 7,810 miles to live and work in the Middle East.
The best way for me to answer this is to point out some of the observations and experiences that I've had since my arrival in the UAE.
I'm definitely not alone in my decision. Looking at the population breakdown of the UAE, over 75% are expats. As strange as this sounds to most people in the U.S., it begs the question, "Why?" Opportunity is the main reason cited for business-related moves to the UAE, be it for the "endless oil money" in the region, the tax-friendly benefits, or the fact that it is a major launchpad for business in Africa, Europe and Asia. I'm not what one would call a dreamer, but I am at the very least an enthusiastic opportunist. The Carrot UAE team and I see opportunity for our business every day. On a scale of one to ten, I can confidently say that social media marketing ranks at 9.9. Social is on the cusp of becoming (if not already) a major consideration for local, regional, global brands in the area. We are here to capitalize on this opportunity and are quickly making waves. Here are some stats that quantify, in part, the opportunity within the region:
- Nearly 50% of people in the Middle East and North Africa turn to print as their primary source of news. If recent trends in the U.S. and Europe are any indicator, print revenue will soon give up ground to the likes of social.
- The total number of Facebook users in the Arab world stands at 27,711,503 (as of April 5, 2011), up from 21,377,282 (January 5, 2011), having almost doubled since the same time last year (14,791,972 in April 2010).
- The digital revenue growth rate here is expected to be three times that of the rest of the world.
- Oh yeah and just a few months back, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, invested $300 million in Twitter. I gather that he sees that there might be something to this whole social media thing.
I'd be dishonest if I didn't address the "life experience" factor. At 33, let's face it: I'm not going to have too many more opportunities like this. Aside from the obvious impact of having "start-up" and "international experience" as part of my professional portfolio, there is something just amazing about working and living here.
For anyone that has been following the Carrot UAE Team's exploits, you are well aware of some of the things we have been experiencing. A quick scan through some of my recent Facebook posts, tweets and personal emails stand as a reminder of some of the amazing things I have encountered in the UAE that I would never have experienced in the U.S. Here are a few snippets:
- On a clear day, I can look out my window and catch a glimpse of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
- I recently attended an outdoor concert on a 5-kilometer-long man-made island shaped like a palm tree and almost daily, I drive by the world's only 7-star hotel that is shaped like a sailboat.
- While at a traditional "Friday Brunch", the DJ jammed Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind". I'm not from New York, but listening to a quintessential American track right smack in the center of the Middle East was amazingly surreal!
- While traveling down Sheik Zayed Road, a main thoroughfare, I saw camels within 100 feet of the roadside.
- I watched my colleagues order Margaritas from a local Mexican restaurant that, to their displeasure, turned out to be "virgin" due to local alcohol laws. Hilarious!
- The Carrot UAE team had a weekend vacation cancelled on account of a sandstorm.
- And lastly, Ravi. Oh my God, Ravi! Ravi Restaurant has reshaped my world from a food perspective. I'm officially now a Pakistani and Indian food lover. I could eat naan bread and Butter Chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The UAE is clearly a great place to be a Carrot. For anyone in the industry that reads this and decides, "hmmm...I think we should open up shop in in the UAE," be aware that we are a formidable team, both locally and in Brooklyn. Our work speaks for itself and our corporate culture is tighter than any I have experienced in my 10 years of professional life. If you open up shop here, prepare for battle.