DUBAI // It is the last word in advertising - apocalypse marketing, where companies use predictions of an imminent cataclysm to sell products - and now it has come to the UAE.
The Dubai-based fashion chain Splash has launched a calendar inspired by a doomsday forecast based on the calendar used by the Maya civilisation in South America. Some New Age spiritual movements say the ancient Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012, and believe the world will end on that date, too.
The Splash calendar includes 13 illustrations instead of the standard 12. The extra one features the days from December 22 until the end of the month, a period Splash describes as "a new beginning".
The company is promoting the limited edition calendar as the first to use 13 images to tabulate 12 months, and says it "explores the prophecy [that] the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012".
Companies abroad have already latched on to the Mayan prophecy to sell holidays and promote competitions, but Splash is believed to be the first in the region to employ it for marketing.
The images by the fashion photographer Tejal Patni feature a model wearing striking outfits in a series of brightly coloured settings inspired by science fiction B-movies.
In some, she is seen with a robot or mechanical animals, while in others the Burj Khalifa looms in the background.
"We wanted a calendar that combined fashion and art, and Patni came up with the Mayan concept and I connected with it in a lot of different ways," said the Splash chief executive officer, Raza Beig.
"In the coming year you will see a lot of this type of marketing. We are probably the first people in the region who are talking about it, but the television channels have already started work on programmes about the prophecy. Next year, there will be a lot of conversation about it."
Mr Patni said: "I combined my thoughts and the vision of Splash for 2012 to explore a crucial place in the history of civilisation and what has been predicted to be a dramatic turn of events in 2012."
Splash is by no means the first business to take advantage of the commercial opportunities offered by the end of the world.
Mexico sees the interest generated as a way to boost its holiday trade. A two-metre-high digital clock has been set up in the city of Tapachula to count down the days until the big moment, and 500 doomsday-themed tours and events are scheduled to take place in the country throughout the year.
A Californian hotel called the Maya is running a competition with the slogan: "The Mayan calendar is running out. And so is your chance to win big."
Guido Mercati, the group strategic planning director at the Dubai office of advertising agency Grey, questioned the effectiveness of using a fear that the world would end to sell goods.
"Hollywood exploited people's fears and beliefs better than anyone else: whether it was natural disasters, aliens or epidemics," he said. "But when it comes to packaged goods or commercial brands, you have to turn a little bit more wary.
"We advertising people want you to repeat compulsively and comfortably your product experiences and fear is not exactly a facilitator for that.
"Maybe you find it desirable to be frightened out of your bones in the darkness of a cinema hall. I'm not quite sure about supermarket aisles."
He agreed that more firms would use the prophecy in their marketing.
"Expect some campaigns about this, I guess mainly by fashion and entertainment brands."
Most experts in Mayan history say the doomsday belief is based on a misreading of ancient inscriptions, and that December 21 will simply mark the end of one time cycle and the start of the next.
Kathryn Reese-Taylor, a professor of Mayan archaeology at Canada's University of Calgary, told the EarthSky science website: "Nowhere did the Maya say, at any point in time, that the world will end."
Splash is the Middle East's largest fashion retailer, and the 500 numbered copies of the calendar are being sent to business partners and VIPs, with a Dh100 desktop version available in stores from tomorrow.Mr Beige said he did not actually believe the world would end on December 21, which was why the calendar continued after that date.
"If that was the case I'd probably retire and just enjoy my next 11 months and 21 days," he said.