Whatever Dubai does, Dubai does big. So the latest, hottest, zingiest news in the world of brand endorsements comes not unexpectedly from Dubai that is hosting the 2020 Expo next year. Last Friday, the beginning of the Dubai weekend saw Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson and Zoe Saldana set out on unique adventures in the city, portraying style and glamour in the swish Dubai surroundings.
The first set of current promotions though started with Shah Rukh Khan earlier in the year while the over-arching #BeMyGuest campaign was first launched in December 2016.
In February 2019, ‘King Khan’ went on a never-before adventure for Dubai’s #BeMyGuest campaign. In a series of six videos, the actor was seen visiting top tourists spots of Dubai, while reaching out to fans to help him solve clues and discover his next adventure.
In the final episode, titled ‘The Revelation’, Khan was given three coins that spelt out: ‘Be my guest’. With his new discovery, Khan took the ‘treasure’ to the beach where he set his eyes on a mystery blonde woman hiding behind the rim of a large straw hat and reading a book. She was later revealed as Gwyneth Paltrow. The new campaign picks up from where the previous one left off in early 2019.
Episode 1 – The Quest Begins #BeMyGuest
Episode 2 – Mystery of the Sands #BeMyGuest
So, ‘A Story Takes Flight’ in Dubai once again.
The three Hollywood stars are shown in action in three short clips, that appeared over the weekend on social media and on the Visit Dubai official website, with each actress exploring a different experience in Dubai, while the trio are also seen together taking an abra ride in Old Dubai.
In the first individual video, ‘Feel the soul of the city’, Kate Hudson is seen leisurely strolling through the narrow streets and alleyways of Souk Al Kabeer and Bastakiya, the city’s historic centre, with a voice-over that asks: “Where is Kate?” Her journey of exploration leads her to the Bur Dubai abra station, with brief flashes that show the ‘Mother’s Day’ actress experiencing Dubai’s nightlife by taking a shot at karaoke.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s adventure also starts out in Bastakiya (the dreamy old world art district with mystic cafes and smoke bars), before leading the ‘Avengers: Endgame’ actress to Jumeirah where she’s seen indulging in some water sports with the majestic Burj Al Arab hotel in the background. Paltrow’s ‘Fuel your sense of discovery’ video also ends in a nightclub before fading out.
Zoe Saldana’s tour, ‘Find another point of view’, takes the ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ superstar out of the city of Dubai and into the Hatta desert where she is seen enjoying herself at a traditional Bedouin camp. Soon the point of view transforms to show a different adventure as the actress rides a bike into the city with the Sheikh Zayed Road skyline towering around her. Her meanderings ultimately lead her to Dubai’s famed City Walk, where she is seen pointing into the distance, saying: “Whoa, what’s that?” The video ends with a stunning shot of the Dubai Frame.
Filmed by Emmy and Director’s Guild award-winning director, Reed Morano, the videos involving the three Hollywood actresses were shot over eight days with a crew of more than 30 nationalities. Dubai obviously does everything in style.
Positioning Dubai as a diverse and multicultural destination, ‘A Story Takes Flight’ captures each actress on her personal exploration of a different facet of what the city has to offer, from sailing in the gulf to getting lost in the old town and trekking through the desert. The falcons are fascinating; the sunsets are divine; the sands look mystical; the magic of Dubai is the multiplicity of its offerings and Gwyneth, Kate and Zoe take what Shah Rukh initiated to a higher stratosphere.
The question that inevitably surfaces with such A-lister endorsements is whether the star parade will overshadow the subject … the promotion of Dubai as a desirable destination in 2020, moreso since the Expo will be a big magnet. Given that all the hoopla is about Dubai, the trio from Hollywood look quite natural … they only echo the global image of glitz and glamour that the city has acquired in the past two decades.
Are the ads outstanding? Technically and cinematographically, yes. Creatively, perhaps no.
The stories are pretty linear, with nothing that is new or surprising. But they do what they are supposed to do: showcase Dubai, make it intriguing, interesting and inviting.
Will Shah Rukh Khan be back? The answer is yes, without a doubt. One can look forward to more of the badshah as the action hots up in Dubai. Will there be Hollywood hunks too, now that the beauties have already put in an appearance. Well, maybe.
Dubai would actually do well with a campaign that hard-sells the destination a little lesser. More warmth, more togetherness, more happiness would help the ordinary Joe to feel that Dubai is less formidable. When everything is larger than life, sometimes it is better to let it look and feel less forbidding. Gwyneth & Co. may increase the glamour quotient of the destination but they also run the risk of getting potential travelers to believe ‘it is not for me’ because falcons and free-falls are not everyone’s cup of tea. Or are they?
(Carol Goyal is a freelance writer based in Mumbai. She is a regular visitor to Dubai).