Friday, June 23, 2017

Family feud - the branding edition

Recently it caught my eye that what used to be Zoughaib - the local jeweler store - has suddenly become Zoughaib & Sons, and the Doumit Zoughaib helmed stores, suddenly became in an act of fast rebranding Zoughaib & Co (the signage on the stores was exceptionally haphazard and make shift done it ended up in two colors - black and "co" written on a green background). There is also - separately - from the same family (though no idea if related) Michel Zoughaib (and offered graciously by google Nadia Zoughaib too).
On another edition, there is Iwan Maktabi, Hassan Maktabi, Yehya Maktabi, Ali Maktabi, Hadi Maktabi, Cyrus Maktabi, Maktabi at the park, Oumnia by Nevine Maktabi (apologies if I forgot anyone) all of them in the carpet business. Hallab, the sweets makers, have so many sub-denominations as well. Thankfully, the late Joy Zahar sold out its brand so that it did not breed any offshoots. But this naturally brings me to the title of this post "family feud". I have no idea what circumstances led the Zoughaibs to such a move or what the internal family dynamic is (or if they are related as I assumed they are!), but this has branching out happened so many times it gets confusing eventually. One cannot say "I am off to Hallab for some sweets" - which is why renaming the Abdul Rahman Hallab stores as "Kasr el Helou" (the palace of sweets) was a very smart move since it distinguishes it from the rest of the family.
Perhaps jewelers who capitalized on their family name are a bit less lucky and I think the "& Co" vs "& Sons" was not a good choice either especially with the rebranding of Zoughaib & Co seems to be taking a lot of time whereas Zoughaib & Sons (not sure if because they have less branches or what) seems to have undertaken a swift job at it. Again I contacted no party while writing this post but my assumption that people from the same family in the same business got me to the conclusion that they are related biologically.
Is there any way for a brand which stems from a family name to demark itself? While emphasizing its heritage and belonging? Certainly calling one's self Zoughaib & Co out of nowhere is not the way to do it. Perhaps Michel Zoughaib got the magic formula after all, you use the family name and the first name. You are yourself after all. And Doumit Zoughaib who inserted himself in every advertising for his brand perhaps should have played that card.
The Zoughaib logo (before having &Co) was the one below:
And the current Zoughaib website gives this image below:
Many resources and compiling websites on the net still refer to the whole enterprise - confusingly - as "Zoughaib". Such lists are rarely if ever updated, which will put even more confusion in the head of consumers. Since most of the time I take the approach of a regular consumer to understanding advertising, I for one will be confused for a long time to come.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Is there anything Spinney's cannot do? Sid el Bauchrieh Branch

Spinney's is opening a new branch. In "sid el bauchrieh" - in Arabic, phonetically, "sid" (dam) and "sit" (lady) are very close. So what best to announce this than with "for sit el Bauchrieh and her neighbors"? The ability to come up with easy, non-forced ads never ceases to amaze me. If Spinney's signs with "value you can trust", then their ad agency Rizk Group is doing splendid work they can trust!

Beirut '71 (maillot) - questioning history (20)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
Women in Lebanon, in a law dating back to 1941 are forbidden to wear two piece Bikinis or short shorts. On June 30th 1964 a photo appeared in l'Orient Le Jour with a monokini which had indentations to allow the breasts to be shown. A shop displayed it in the window with the words "this bathing suit is forbidden" - in 1971 the British Pathe came to the St. George Yacht Motor Club and shot footage there focusing on sensitive areas of women's bodies. With social customs going back and forth in Lebanon between liberalism and conservatism, the question remains what is allowed and is not, and who allows it and who does not. 

Two tribes - Frankie goes to Beirut

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
This article has been written before, well, sort of, by Patrick Chemali (no relation). But whereas Patrick focused on the digital divide my theory engulfs practically everything. Yes, it is always a case of "us" vs "them", no matter what us is, no matter what them is. However, I also noticed, from a long time back, how people project their own fears, upbringing, ideologies, on others just to either reflect, justify or second their own.
Someone who only recently started reading my writings came to the conclusion a couple of months back that "I am most definitely right wing" in a private conversation. That the guy in question is a self-admitted xenophobic and misogynist only gives more sense to my theory - he projected his own ideas on me and saw "right wing" in my writings. Naturally, this would not be the first time people injected their own interpretations on my work, and mind you I could easily be the only person to have been quoted in a Lebanese Forces chatroom and in the Orange Room belong to the Free Patriotic Movement, and that at the height of their political differences with each understanding my words as they wish them to be.
Here's an anecdote: the girl who came to the gallery every night to contemplate one of my works during my first major solo exhibition puzzled me. I asked her on the last night before closing, "sorry, what do you see in this work?". "Obviously it is about education" she said about my work. "Where do you see that?" I inquired with a look that betrayed my astonishment. "Oh you don't understand anything about art!" was her reply.
But if I am digressing it is to make a point.
Also in a seemingly unconnected point, this dialog snippet from 1982's Blade Runner:
Pris: Must get lonely here, J.F.
J.F. Sebastian: Not really. I make friends. They're toys. My friends are toys. I make them. It's a hobby. I'm a genetic designer.
Somehow, we too "make" friends, we mold them into the way we want to see them, we shape them according to our beliefs, ideas, ideals, principles, thoughts and convince each ourselves that these people are indeed how we see them - until the day when "they are revealed to their truth" (which basically what they have been all along and which we have convinced ourselves otherwise).
Several days back, I got a whatsapp message late in the evening which went "hey Tarek, can you give me the number of the man who fixes stuff once more?" - that the person who wrote it was an exceptionally close friend for two decades, that at one point she was abusing of my kindness and creativity (to which I turned a blind eye thinking it was a passing episode), that basically I have not heard of her for the past 5 years after a major disagreement while working on a creative project, only made her message more poignant and sad. She had sent the message by mistake. It was meant to go to another Tarek.
But again, the above story only serves to say that none of us is immune of "making" friends - like J.F. Sebastian. The image I had of the friend in question was one self-built above all. But perhaps there is safety, not just in numbers, but in habits as well.
People who share the same social, religious, personal, sportive rituals as us end up being our "tribe", for better or for worse. Of course a Brazil fan in football can sympathize deeply with another Brazil fan and scorn a Mannschaft follower. So far so good, but imagine if one of the Brazil fans comes from a drastically different socioeconomic class than the other one even if - and that is a big if - they come from the same, not just religion, but also sect. The local saying goes "ana 3ala ibn 3ami w ana w ibn 3ami 3ala el gharib" - me against my cousin and me and my cousin against the stranger. Got it?
"Yalli byekhod min melle ghayr mellto, byou2a3 bi 3elle min ghayr 3ellto" - he who marries from a sect/religion other than his own falls into a problem other than his own. So goes another Lebanese proverb. If a proof is needed that we as Lebanese gravitate towards what just looks and acts and has the same background as us, this is it. And not only that, we tend to take that background and parade it wherever we go hoping someone who has it will be attracted to us.
As I was walking on 5th avenue in New York in 1999, a stretched black limousine with tinted windows passed me by. On the back glass was a St. Charbel sticker - it seems to ask the question; is there any other person of Lebanese Christian Catholic Maronite affiliation here?
There you go: Two Tribes, Frankie goes to Beirut. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Fairouz concert at Le Carre theatre Amsterdam. #flashback

Originally published: 26/7/11
There is a saying in Arabic that goes "the nearby church does not heal" - which is perhaps why, when Fairouz did a concert in BIEL I was not the least interested in getting tickets - after all, I was one of the people who saw her in the comeback concert in 1994, I saw her in Baalbeck, and then twice in Beiteddine.... But when I got wind that the grande dame was going to be the closing guest of the Holland Festival, I activated my Dutch connections who managed to secure much prized and strategically located tickets for the the concert.
In the meantime, I had to go through embassy hell, coordination over my summer semester, a million logistic problems, red tape, bureaucracy, a difficult connection in Frankfurt airport and God knows what else, but here I am tonight - having witnessed Fairouz at the height of her glory in Amsterdam.
First let me explain that the tickets for the concert sold out in an hour, and that for those unfortunate souls not able to get a ticket, either a black market option was available (with prices shooting to 500 Euros), or alternatively a walk in a park where the concert was being broadcasted.
Those of you who know me, know that I am ready to criticize where criticism is due, but tonight, I humbly have to pay my respects to a lady who at the age of 76 managed to capture an audience composed, not just of arabophones, but also of people who had no clue what she was saying. My Dutch friend - to whom I owe the ticket - summed it eloquently by saying "It's all in the voice, one high note and the audience understand she is being playful, another low one, and she is almost mourning."
The management of the festival had sent strict letters to all those who got tickets, that although the show was to start at 8:15 in the evening, it was better to be there early due to the draconian security check - not out of fear of a terrorist act but because no one was allowed to carry smart phones, cameras, recording instruments and devices of any kind - the plead was sadly left unheard because because kept coming to the theater until 8:45 not having forecasted the mess and the queue they were going to endure. So although the theater was sold to capacity, it was only 40 minutes after the original scheduled time that the concert began. As a matter of fact, this is also the reason why there are no original photos to accompany this post.
It is good to mention that Fairouz's voice was too crystal clear, and is improving with age - mind you, the 1994 affair was a technical disaster on all fronts (her voice was still untrained, the wind blew in the microphones, a giant screen never functioned, etc... ) - but this one a perfect gem. Fairouz's voice kept hovering over the orchestra, always higher, never drowned, as if they were simply accompanying someone singing a cappella. The synergy between the musicians, the backing vocals, and the lady herself was choreographed to the millisecond all while appearing relaxed and natural.
The concert was composed of Ziad Rahbani songs (her son) for the first part, and then of older Rehbani brothers material. Actually, these were kept to a strict minimum, maybe to avoid the copyright problem she was faced with last year, and even that period tended to focus mostly on songs writen by Elias Rehbani such as "ba3dana" (after us) and "el 2ouda el mensiyye" (the forgotten room).
The concert began with "Habaytak ta nsit il nawm" (I loved you till I forget to sleep) followed by "kifak inta" (and how are you?) and then "salimleh alayh" (say hello to him on my behalf)... These three up-tempo songs were followed by an interlude with the backing vocals and then three easy going ballads afterward. But the tone was set, the beat dictated and the audience enthralled (among the easy-going songs "Allah kbir" for example from her latest album "Eh... fi amal").
Fairouz's first appearance was in a black and silver dress, and in the second part of the show she adopted what seems to be a golden version of the first dress, her legendary frigid scene presence was there, but she knew how to work her charm on the audience by small gestures, a punctuation here, a wave there, a move of the shoulder....
Even the small interludes, were made bearable by the backing vocals singing classic Ziad Rahbani songs in the line of "ya di3anou" (what a waste) and the legendary "3ayshi wahda balak" (she lives alone without you) to which the audience went ballistic.
At the concert came to an end, and viewing her legendary refusal to do encores (can anyone forget the dictatorial Assi Rahbani (her late husband) and the way her ushered her into the backstage when the audience was pleading for an encore after her Olympia concert?) she went back to stage to what was obviously a programmed tease for the audience (meaning her first disappearance into the backstage was calculated so as for her to show up again) and she repeated the last song she had sang "Immi namet 3a bakir" (my mother slept early) and then, as a final greeting to her audience she did a small part of "Ougniyat al wada3" (the farewell song) which the whole room stood chanting along.
For those who do not know the lyrics of that song, suffice to repeat this part "tomorrow I shall stand with you again, if not tomorrow the day after for sure, you just talk to me, and I shall always hear you, no matter how far the voice."
As I went back in the subway with my Dutch friend, I was staunchly repeating the lyrics and he was humming the tune while the rest of the streetcar was idly falling asleep, oblivious that they have missed the event of the year.

BCI recruitment - an eye on positive statistics

In a gloomy market, BCI recruitment offers a ray of sunshine. They are, by their own admission "slicing the unemployment rate by 200 fresh job opportunities"! I am not sure what - statistically - this means in terms of percentage, or how many of those are already guaranteed by the wasta (clientage) system to go to so and so, or if there is any preference for a specific religion, and subsequently sect; but - ceteris paribus (an economic term to denote "all other things being equal) - this is indeed a positive sign for people looking for work!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Raouche heroes '83 - questioning history (19)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
In the movie "Awdat el batal" (the return of the hero), Mohammad Itani a known Raouche-rock jumper did that instead of the actor Mohamad el Mawla. The movie was released in the middle of the Lebanese war in 1983. And the jump seems to be a metaphor of the ugly conundrum the country was in - albeit without a body double. 

NOD - praise-worthy organ donation initiative in a convoluted ad.

The National Organization for Organ & Tissue Donation & Transplantation (NOD for short) is obviously a worthy initiative. Their website states that in the last 5 years 82 patients were saved, and they even have an advertising running on billboards which unfortunately says too many things. "Tania has saved a lot of lives" in the photo tagged are "Sarah" "Omar" "Samar" and on Omar's eyes "Tania". So far so very good, but add to it "register to become an organ donor" the website, the logo of the NOD (which is an unknown organization for the public) and the logo of the Ministry of Public Health and one does  not even know where to look. It was only when I stopped under the billboard, read it thoroughly that I managed to understand the ad, unfortunately not many people are going to do that effort, they'll sadly walk on by! 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Volvo has a new selling line - and I am blown! (UPDATE)

Volvo has a new ad for its XC60 model.... The ad is long but the length serves to drive a point with scenes interlocking and at one point a little confusing in their chronology. "Sometimes the moments that never happen matter the most" as the ad focuses on the new safety measures inside the car. I am not going to spoil the action for you, but what blew me away was the new tagline: Made by Sweden.
Some might argue "oh it is a grammatical mistake" to which I reply "think different" (the selling line of Apple) is in itself a grammatical error (should have been think differently).
The line is nothing short of amazing, it is not "made in Sweden" - no, that would have been too direct - it is "made by Sweden", the whole country, the entire culture, the complete heritage, the full legacy. By changing this small twist, the whole meaning of the sentence got amplified, changed, got turbo charged (sorry, a car pun!). The line could be to offset the fact that Volvo was bought by a Chinese company, but still, I am nothing short of amazed!
PS - it has been pointed out to me that this line was introduced in 2014! But it flew under my radar for so long, so mea culpa!

Exotica father's day - a lot of effort, a bit less charm

You know Surya Bonaly? She was a French figure skater and is so far the only female skater to have done a backflip on only one blade. What she lacked for in Kataria-Witt-charm she compensated with brilliant technique. I feel this father's day ad from Exotica strikes that same note - a father is as wisest as a cedar, strongest as a cactus, sweetest as an arrowhead plant. As I said, a lot of technical gutso, but very little charm from the heart. Sure, the message is there, but it gets too convoluted. Bonaly never got a gold Olympic medal, Witt - with no backflip in sight - bagged two.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Nescafe Gold - the proposal

"You are worthy of Gold" - with a Nescafe jar being opened as it was a jewelry box containing a ring. Well, at least they tried to differentiate their offering. In the best possible way? I am not sure. Maybe the ad is a bit complicated to be understood by the average layman (I am not even sure of that). Still, it could have been worse. Such as this incident from 2013:
"Min yawm ma cheftak, chifti 3a cheftak" - brilliant, genius, wonderful. Ok, and done before.
Let's first explain the gimmick - "cheftak" means both "I saw you" and "your lip" - so the meaning is "from the day I "cheftak" (saw you), my lip is on "cheftak" (your lip)".
Which is the exact same lyric from the song Cheftak by Soapkills credited to Walid Sadek, Rabih Mroue and Soapkills.
So to recap:
 "From the day I "cheftak" (saw you), my lip is on "cheftak" (your lip)". (Nescafe)
"Cheftak" (your lip) on her lip, "Cheftak" (I saw you) kachaftak (I unmasked you)." (Soapkills)
So there, a proposal is better than a betrayal I suppose!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Cortina logo history #flashback

Originally published: 8/2/13
I am so pleased to share with you this archaeological advertising news: The original Gelati Cortina has been found, in plain sight, on a refrigerator in a shop in Archrafieh, According to the shop owner, it dates back to "about 35 years" - which is correct if one assesses the typo, the hand drawing and thanks heavens the lack of interference from any machines (Mac was only introduced in 1984). Insert hyperventilation sound effect here....
Originally published: 4/11/13
Earlier this year I unearthed a Cortina logo from a fridge in a shop in Achrafieh. And bingo, what do you get when one of those metal-scavenging trucks passes in front of my house? Another fridge with a Cortina logo. This one is however more recent than the one found in Achrafieh, but in itself it also continues the saga of the logos on fridges so to speak. Enjoy this finding, I know I have!

Dar Al Ajaza Al Islamiya - I used to be you.

"I too was a young man. I used to be you."
"I too was a young woman. I used to be you."
Dar Al Ajaza Al Islamiya strikes gold for its Ramadan ad, projecting the past onto - literally - the face of the present to remind everyone that time is fleeting and no one can reverse it. By touching on the nerve of that  angle, perhaps people would be more willing to identify with the people in the photo (the ultimate was the elder's man's pastiche of old-young face). However, this being said, the Red Cross campaign is still ace in terms of psychology - maybe everyone needs to follow suit.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Khoury Home an ad with sexist undertones for that perfect daughter in law

Khoury Home has a new Samsung fridge Ramadan ad for their bridge collection "for the one who wants to "invite" her mother in law". So it is iftar time and - if I placed the word "invite" in quotes it is because there is no direct translation to the words "tred 3azime" in Arabic which means "inviting someone after being invited at their place" - it is a time for extended families to gather. I suppose they are playing the "size does matter" card, so as for "the perfect daughter in law" to show her strength and culinary might. It has sexist undertones, but less overtly so than that Fairy ad recently. When all else fails, go back to Puck for the egalitarian bit!

Datsun, a so-so follow up ad.

I loved the original Datsun comeback ad, and the one Wissam Kamal did was very funny, which makes this follow up ad a bit lame by comparison. The force of the original promise, "Datsun is back - and in force" was that it was an expression people actually use. "Datsun is a good catch - and in force" as this ad states is not! Sure I understand the "rappel" to the original campaign - in layout, colors and copy - but the copy part falls flat. Maybe next one will drive (no pun!) the message home better!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Internal Security Forces - what is communal police?

The Internal Security Forces has issued a new ad for their 156th commemoration "together... towards a communal police". According to this link, this is what communal police works on "ensuring public order in relation to parking, waste disposal, water supply, wastewater and stormwater disposal, urban sanitation, street lighting, maintenance of market-places, parks, green lots; performing inspection tasks in the areas of traffic and roads, burials, local roads, noise, working time; providing information services to citizens and performing other duties within the jurisdiction of the Municipality prescribed by the law and the decision of the Assembly and the duties that were transferred into its competence by the Government Decree."
Good luck with that, as if they are not already having too big of a bite to chew!

That ad with Elissa in it....

Air Optix Colors has a new ad for its contact lenses, better known as "that ad with Elissa in it"....
My students do this all the time, they want to get a star or comedian to star in their campaign and I stop them dead in their tracks. Because - unless there is a major reason why the star needs to be part of the ad - the star will end up a phagocyte to the creative/conceptual effort. Just like the ad above.
The only thing I remember is Elissa. I don't even remember her contact lenses! And of course, certainly do not remember the name of the brand of contact lenses....

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Puck #ahelpinghand of egalitarianism in the Arab region!

Hello Fairy, Puck has something to tell you - everything from criss-cross voice over, to the latter acts, to the brilliance of the message, to men pitching in when needed, to the final testimonials, really tells you how exceptional this ad is. Puck has nailed it on the head, made it normal to men to be in the kitchen, for helping when  necessary, Puck with its new TVC for Ramadan just established itself - not just as a beacon of human decency - but also set the way for some egalitarianism in the region. I pop my chef's hat down for this genius of an ad. No preaching, just work - they talk the talk and walk the walk! 

Is it Fine to use the poop/sh*t emoji in an ad?

This is an ad that has been waiting to happen. Fine - the tissue paper and toilet roll company - issued this with "Bestie goals" underneath. The reaction? Tons and tons of people tagging each other. And whereas I am not a fan of Lebanese Memes the above did remind me of this one:
"We got to a point when we say to a girl "you are a b*tch" she takes it as a compliment, snapchat has ruined the world".
So frankly I am not sure what to make of the above Fine ad, maybe I am too old for it!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Smirnoff takes a swipe at Trump - "lordy, I hope there are tapes"!

It was bound to happen, and Smirnoff grasped it and took it to the next level. "Made in America" "but we are happy to talk about ties to Russia under oath". Comey? Check. Trump? Check. FBI? Check. Mueller? Check. And the list continues. When it comes to jabs this one is a knock out. Absolut gem of an ad (sorry for the pun!) and "lordy, I hope there are tapes"!