We have 25 employees in the office. The office is situated near Park Gorkogo (on Sadovaya Ring), which is now a center of the city.
Daily life in Moscow does certainly have its crushing features that dictate how we work, live and socialize.

The phrase “10 points” referring to Moscow traffic gridlock (10=paralyzed traffic) has become a stock phrase in Muscovites’ conversation.  Navigating Moscow’s streets is quite an experience at the best of time – in winter, it’s downright remarkable. In winter, unlike the rest of Europe, we live on summer time (two hours ahead of standard time), and this extra hour of darkness make what is already a challenging commute even more “entertaining”.

I arrive in the office around 10 am. Few people are around but all are beginning to filter in slowly but surely – having battled the traffic on the highway, or tightly pressed crowds on the metro attempting to squeeze through turnstiles and comparably packed trains… now all waiting for the sun to peep over the horizon…

I grab a coffee and settle down at my desk for the client and internal mails that await me, and for the review of the new business pitch document that the team has worked on and that needs to be couriered before noon today to meet the application deadline.

11 am, already time for real-time update on Moscow gridlock again, to decide on how to make it on time to the progress meeting on the major campaign with the key client. “10 points”, according to Yandex (a leading Russian internet search portal that provides daily, real-time updates on Moscow gridlock), the city does not move. The heavy snow has come. It comes every year, and every year it’s a surprise.  Is it not better to abandon driving and hop on the metro to get anywhere on time?

12:00, a disaster check – the courier delivered the pitch document just a couple of minutes before the deadline, hurrah!

1 pm at the client now. Not too late for the meeting. The clients are happy with the layout but still not happy with the copy.  No time for lunch. But a coffee at the client’s was good. I am heading back to the office now. “10 points” on the Moscow roads, it isn’t getting any better.

However much the roads are widened, however many new interchanges are built, the speed of traffic drops from year to year, but the speed of business does not, on the contrary, it’s getting faster and faster. A new brief just came in from the network, not allowing enough lead time for it!

3:30 pm.  I am still on the way to the office. It’s getting dark already – and still so much to get done.

Review with creatives afterwards on the key campaign and with planning on the urgent new business opportunity. And afterwards, there is a new job candidate waiting to share his experiences and work examples.

I am leaving the office late.  Traffic density index is down to 7 now – hurrah! Tomorrow is another day.

“We welcome you on board this Boeing 777 on our way from Hamburg to Dubai. The languages spoken by our cabin crew today are Arabic, English, French, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Serbian, Korean, Thai, Mandarin, Cantonese, Filipino, Hindi, Malyalam, Farsi and Sinhala…” Even the EMIRATES flight to Dubai gives you a foretaste of what the city has to offer – superlatives and a melting pot of cultures.

I have lived in Dubai for two years, and it took me nearly six months to get used to the rhythm of the city, its climate and its culture, not to mention my new workplace.

Dubai is one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), not the capital – that’s Abu Dhabi – nor is it an independent state with lots of oil, as I originally assumed. Also, Dubai does not consist entirely of sheikhs, desert and camels. Not entirely – though they do exist, of course. Out of all the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is the emirate of superlatives: the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world; the Burj Al Arab, the most luxurious hotel in the world; and the artificial islands forming the Palm Jumeirah off the coast – these are only a few of the city’s remarkable construction projects.
But if you think Dubai’s going to stop there, you couldn’t be more wrong. Dubai never tires of planning ever more ambitious projects, such as the Mohamed bin Rashid City, Taj Arabia and the Dubai Modern Art Museum for 2013.

Dubai’s economy has seen formidable growth for decades as a result of its liberal economic policy. Its inhabitants are not taxed directly – only alcoholic drinks are taxed, at 30%. There is no income tax, and, with a few exceptions, no VAT. About 80% of the total population are expats, who come from all continents to work in Dubai. There are also more and more of us Germans.

At Plan.Net Middle East we have 25 employees from 14 nations. Our biggest clients are BMW, MINI, RR, Continental Tyres and the insurance company Takaful Emarat. Our agency is located in Dubai Media City, the regional hub of media corporations such as Leo Burnett and Y&R, as well as the big television companies NBC, BBC, FOX, etc. Dubai Media City is a free trade zone, meaning that we do not need a local sponsor to act as a sleeping partner for the company.

The summer in Dubai is certainly one of the greatest differences. It poses real challenges for me, as a northern European. In general you can divide the year into two halves. The first is warm, the second is hot. Temperatures of 40° – 45° are not uncommon in summer, which means that your clothes are wet with sweat the minute you step outside. Just imagine: the day begins, the sun is shining, I leave my tower block with my nice apartment on the 20th floor, step out of the door, and the first thing that happens is: a wall of heat. My shirt, my whole suit, is sticking to my body. Beads of sweat on my brow. Very neat and tidy! And have I mentioned the 80% humidity? Quick, into the taxi.
It doesn’t even cool down in the evenings, and the day’s activities are based on moving from air conditioning to air conditioning. They do a lot to make life in summer more attractive: for instance, the Dubai World Trade Centre is converted into Dubai Sports World. Running, football, basketball, tennis – everything is offered for free, and anyone can take part. And there is always the option of travelling to one of the neighbouring countries, such as Oman, Sri Lanka, India or Lebanon.

Another thing that takes a bit of getting used to is the culture. The Muslim month of fasting, Ramadan, and the public holidays Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha etc. are actively celebrated in the agency. At these times daily life practically comes to a standstill. In the agency the working day is reduced to six hours, and the lunch delivery service stops. If you want to order a coffee at Starbucks you have to knock on the closed security blind, which is then pulled up barely a metre (so as not to let out the smell of coffee), and slip underneath.  We drink water in darkened rooms, and we don’t eat anything in the agency, out of consideration for our Muslim colleagues. It’s a good opportunity to lose a few pounds, but in the end everyone is glad when it’s over.

Our life at the agency is not much different from that in Germany. The meeting culture may be somewhat more relaxed, but the pressure on brands to succeed is just as high in this region as at home. Many of our clients see Dubai as an emerging market, and as a ticket to the Asian and North African markets.
Many big European brands have Dubai as their headquarters for the region.

If you believe the theories regarding the future of economics and politics, and if I can trust my own gut feeling, Dubai can look forward to an interesting future. Its economic development, stimulation and construction run in parallel with its cultural evolution.  This is making itself felt in drastic increases in the cost of living, including the explosion in rent prices.  Hello tomorrow.

Anna Gauto, editor at “forum Nachhaltig Wirtschaften”, spoke to Pavan Sukhdev and Florian Haller on advertising and sustainability. Pavan Sukhdev is a former manager at Deutsche Bank and founder of the “Corporation 2020” sustainability campaign. Florian Haller is CEO of the largest independent advertising agency in Europe, the Serviceplan Group. Both will speak at SusCon 2012 in Bonn.


Anna Gauto: Advertising does whatever you ask of it. Is advertising blameless?
Florian Haller
: Advertising is not blameless. It is responsible for how a brand is perceived. Our task is to support and guide it with this in mind. For this reason, advertising cannot be blameless.
Pavan Sukhdev:
Advertising is certainly not blameless. Advertisers like to think of themselves as experts, who cater only to the needs of their clients. In order to break through the system of reckless consumption, however, both advertising agencies and the companies they represent must consider the message they are sending out.


Today, companies are effectively adopting the concept of sustainability for advertising purposes. How has sustainability become a sign of a company’s prestige?
The trend towards a sustainable way of living comes from people, not companies. Well-managed brands are using this desire for sustainability as a business opportunity.
We have numerous hard-working writers, scientists, entrepreneurs and citizens to thank for the fact that environmental issues have become so prevalent. How the term sustainability has become so popular, however, is a mystery to me. It is often used incorrectly. It actually describes activities which have been practised for centuries. Companies must be able to account for any claim to being sustainable. This is why the standardisation and regulation of ratings, rankings and seals of quality is necessary.


Cigarette advertising shows that selling well does not automatically mean selling something good. Does advertising need a conscience?
Advertising per se is an instrument which can be used in many different ways. For this reason, advertising as such is neither moral nor immoral. Advertising is, however, a powerful instrument, which can be used to turn a moral concept into a business opportunity.
Sukhdev: Advertising does need a conscience, but we shouldn’t leave it to the industry alone to develop it. We need to ask ourselves which advertising techniques are excessively misleading and what sort of information should be included on product packaging.


There is an increasing demand for ecological products. Has consumer behaviour changed advertising or is it the other way round – has advertising influenced consumers?
I don’t think we can overestimate the influence of advertising. The need for sustainability has been shaped by reports on climate change and wildlife conservation as well as numerous food scandals. For two years we have been using the Sustainability Image Score to investigate which companies in Germany are perceived as sustainable. This allows us to determine how the public perception of a company’s sustainability affects its brand value and therefore its corporate success. One important finding is that companies should not only use the opportunity to put sustainability into practice, but to discuss it intensively and professionally, at the same time winning over consumers. They must practise what they preach.
When it comes to the ever more popular topic of sustainability, consumers have far more influence over advertising than the other way round. One should encourage the other. Read more