Sheikh Hamad pees his name in giant letters in the desert
Campaign: Hamad canal
Client: Al Futaisi resort, Abu Dhabi
Agency: Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan al-Nahyan Productions
Self-promotion is a lost art among the rich. Sure, Richard Branson’s teeth are a strategically aligned multi-channel media platform all by themselves. But in these days of Bilderberg, Zuckerberg and the back-door No 10 visit, it’s a rare moment indeed when the Rupert Murdochs of the world are caught on camera, unbuffered, uttering actual human words. (Yes, Johnnie Marbles, that means you’re a heavy iron tool.) When it comes to the wealthy and the camera, all the niggaz is Avon Barksdale.
Enter the dragon: Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan al-Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family. Better known by the moniker the Rainbow Sheikh (because of his seven rainbow-coloured cars and not, presumably, his sexual inclinations), Sheikh Hamad has just created a lovely advertisement in the desert for … himself.
The letters are actually giant canals.
They’re each two miles wide.
You can see them from space.
You’ve got to hand it to the Sheikh. He’s fulfilled the inchoate dream of every 6-year-old boy on the planet. (At least, he would have if he’d filled the letter canals with urine. Perhaps that’s stage two.) But Forbes also reports that the island “Hamad” is inscribed on, Al Futaisi, is “said to be entirely owned by the Sheikh and contains resorts, a golf course and horse stables”. In other words, this is basically a colossally humongous tourism ad.
For Hawkblocker’s rigorous purposes, however, all we’re concerned about is whether it is an EFFECTIVE colossally humongous tourism ad.
1. The name is in the Roman alphabet, which widens the Sheikh’s potential market to include all the English-speakers in the galaxy. (Why the Roman alphabet? Not a lot of straight lines in Arabic.)
2. Come on. It’s awesome.
3. Built on the curved backs of imported south Asian labour as it was, the canal was probably cheaper than buying primetime media slots in the west.
4. You can go yachting on it.
1. Sucking up to westerners by not writing your name in Arabic is like if Rammstein started singing in English so they could tour America.
2. When production halted temporarily, due reportedly to outrage from neighbouring sheikhs, the canal spelled out, in huge letters, the word “HAM”. This cannot possibly be good marketing in the Middle East. (One wonders if the outraged sheikhs offered to carve him the new A.)
My guess, though, is that the Rainbow Sheikh doesn’t sweat the marketing details. In addition to his seven colour-coded cars (and 200 others besides), he specially commissioned a giant motor home in the shape of a globe that is reputedly one-millionth the size of the actual Earth:
He also built the world’s biggest truck, an operational Dodge Power Wagon that is 64 times larger than the original. It contains an apartment, and makes Clarkson look like a wood pixie:
In other words, the Rainbow Sheikh isn’t so much a canny strategic aligner of multi-channel platforms as the kind of guy for whom inherited oil wealth means a license to stay six years old forever. Can you blame him? And can you imagine his bedroom?