Peter York on Ads: The universal appeal of football... and not a hair out of place

Emirates
Click to follow
The Independent Online

You know all kinds of rich people have holidays in Dubai now. It's weird; they pay top dollar to go there while Western businesses that employ ex-pats there have to pay top dollar to compensate them for being somewhere so awful. I read that the Beckhams have bought an apartment in a block on reclaimed land there. Can this be true? Or did the developer's publicist make it up? Anyway, Emirates, the airline, is pushing the loveliness of its Middle East destinations with a new "people are people the world over" commercial to tackle growing American and European fear and hostility about everything Arab.

You know all kinds of rich people have holidays in Dubai now. It's weird; they pay top dollar to go there while Western businesses that employ ex-pats there have to pay top dollar to compensate them for being somewhere so awful. I read that the Beckhams have bought an apartment in a block on reclaimed land there. Can this be true? Or did the developer's publicist make it up? Anyway, Emirates, the airline, is pushing the loveliness of its Middle East destinations with a new "people are people the world over" commercial to tackle growing American and European fear and hostility about everything Arab.

So here's the Middle East looking like .... Florida. A glorious palmy beach with white sand and shiny skyscrapers behind - hotels put up last week. Lots of marble and Versace prints in the atrium. There's a vaguely hippy-fied Eastern music track. It's a land fit for heroes, or at least global executives in Fortune 500 companies.

Down a path through the palms jogs a very Aryan blond, late twentysomething Harvard MBA type, in navy blue kit. Over there on the beach is a group of mid-teen boys on the incredibly bright sand, kicking a ball around. And over it goes into Hans or Mögens or Dieter's path and he's kicking it back expertly and they're asking him to join in. They're nice-looking kids with wild hair and smiley brown faces and bright tops. The whole section comes from that Nike commercial of a few years back with the Brazilian beach training. "We all speak one language - football," says the screen portentously. (Moral: always beware of universal sentiments particularly when they involve football: they're covering very uncomfortable realities.) The special pleading is clear enough. "Don't write off the whole region. We're very Westernised and accessible and we don't hate you ... honest."

So, in a minute, our traveller is very matey with the boys, arms round shoulders in that old football camaraderie. It's difficult to pitch this line when there's a whole mass of political discomforts swirling around - an obvious one being that visiting Westerners think local youths want to kill them. Certainly they've cast and dressed it with Westernised mid-adolescents so there's not a moustache or tea towel in sight.

Peter@sru.co.uk

Comments