Saturday, September 22, 2018

Beirut Art Fair and Beirut Design Fair - beacons of creativity in the city

So Beirut Art Fair (and its younger offspring Beirut Design Fair) are the talk of the town these days. Of course, Lebanon has had (and still has!) its political ups and downs but the fair(s) seem to take them in their stride. One thing is for sure, Beirut Art Fair - at least this year's edition - is quite comprehensive, diversified, and indeed upscale. Sure, having it in the "seaside arena" where one has to go through a long road to get there already means it is an exclusive event (to be honest I had a ticket for the VIP night but chose to go on the public days).
Apart from the galleries there is a section called "across borders" which focuses on photography in Lebanon - to be honest featuring all the usual suspects, but that is OK, as anyone who has been living under a rock for the last 40 years would have learned new names, and those of us in the know would get to see the works once more.
Interestingly, the galleries, many of which are Lebanese, have upped the ante this year. No I am not saying all artworks are worth it, but the selection (of both, galleries and artists) seems to be more interesting in terms of what they are presenting (major props for including works from the Autism Society - which, if the name was not there, once would have thought this would be some naif artist a la Khalil Zgheib with artworks selling by the 6 figures - the watermelon above is one such example by the way!).
Do note, I am not denigrating the works even if quite a few of them are expected, on the contrary - it was a haven of art in the city, surrounded by lovely (contemporary) works. No digital artworks interestingly - and of course, just seeing so many works of Paul Guiragossian agglomerated in one space is in itself worthy of the visit.
The Design fair too is quite worthy - and doing both at the same time is not exactly for the faint of heart as there is so much material to cover. The beautiful installation "Saint Balech" by Dona Maria Feghali and Charbel Samuel Aoun about the vanishing (as in privatized) Beirut shoreline is truly lovely and endearing (the deck chair at the top which goes not you see any beach is a funny wink).
Elsewhere, the nostalgia feel was present throughout the design fair which is understandable surely - first because many iconic designs were not born today, and second because of all the emotional reassurance that comes from vintage elements in terms of craftsmanship and storytelling (plus rarity of the pieces).
But the stand of 1% architecture is surely a highlight. Their chaise-escabeau is a delight to look at and see - the one exhibited was a tribute to Gerrit Rietveld and Piet Mondrian - and the chair, like the name implies, can become a stool simply by flipping its upper part. In the hand of lesser designers this would have been a silly ikea-worthy gimmick but Waldemar Faddoul, the brain behind 1% architecture takes his jokes seriously.
The public has until tomorrow (23rd of September) to visit the exhibition(s) which run in parallel, both being worthy and interesting, in addition to informative - and for a brief time "depaysants" from the ghost town that seems to be downtown Beirut as of late.

Cafe Super Brasil - for every occasion

Cafe Super Brasil has been flying under my radar, so when I caught up with it there was already too many things to see and share. From the two back to school ads - the coffee pot in the shape of traffic lights wins outright - to the "after a long lunch one needs the tastiest coffee" or "warm greetings" for Army Day, take your pick they all work majestically. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Malak El Tawouk goes digital!

Malak El Tawouk has gone "djeijital"... Get it? Djeij - chicken Arabic. Well, not all puns work but this one flies as if it had wings (or breast). On a seperate note:
They are changing the "deek"or - with dic meaning rooster in Arabic. Another pun that flies (refer above for wings and breasts!).
Good work!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

No Al Wadi Al Akhdar and Khoury Home are not closing down - BUT....

Artwork by Geoana Hobeiche from her diploma project
Yesterday, like many Lebanese I got the news that two large companies - Al Wadi Al Akhdar and Khoury Home - are closing down. Both companies have denied it categorically which is a relief considering that Khoury Home alone employs about five hundred people.
That's the good news. The bad news - well, news is non-countable so cannot make it into a plural but the media have caught up with the economic spiral we have been engulfed in and now they are laying it out on the open.
People in the financial sector are publicly saying it is the politicians' fault. Economists are exposing the many shady "financial engineering" schemes that authorities have been involved in, which basically, also means the said authorities are implicated in the quagmire.
To be honest, as an ordinary citizen, I took the easy way out several months ago and switched financial formulas from one bank to another. But on the ground - and here I speak as someone who studied economics, as someone who works in communication, and as an average citizen: Heaven help us!
On a main shopping street (not naming it) - four adjacent stores run empty with "for rent" on them. Shops still open on the said street, which is a main shopping hub - are already offering discounts on the new collections. A major mall - again no names - is offering for tennants to stay rent-free because several shops closed down creating huge holes in their departures.
A small restaurant in Achrafieh is paying premium rent near Sassine square, when a major chain is paying half of it in downtown Beirut to rent for triple the size.
You know what CDS is? That's the Credit Default Swap which is the cost of insuring Lebanese govenment against default. For the next 6 months it is at 1224 (figures of September 17th, 2018). That of Turkey is 400 and that of Argentina is 640 just to give you an example. This means that what happens in the next 6 months is very crucial.
So no matter how you look at it, this is scary.
Advertising is scarce because no one wants to invest. So even with a new government (with all the high expectations thrown upon it) I sincerely wonder how on earth it will manage to get anything done.
There has been a lot of talk about devaluing the currency as a result of it no longer being pegged to the Dollar, this of course will yield immediate chaos. But if there is anything we as Lebanese specialize in - well, that's chaos!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Land Rover 70 years and the story of the Grizzly Torque

After a first triumph for their 70 years, Land Rover are back to their engaged and engaging storytelling with "The Grizzly Torque", which follows, Robert Bateman and Bristol Foster who - in 1957 - took a journey around the world with nothing other than a sense of curiosity for the unknown and a Land Rover. The "Grizzly Torque" took the two Canadians to 19 countries on 4 different continents for an unforgettable 14-month long journey.
In the advertising, they recount their stories, and remembrances now that they are considerably older than their former young and a bit reckless younger selves. Watch the video here and enjoy how Land Rover is just focusing on their archives rather than stressing new models - something one sincerely congratulates them on!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

RLL (Radio Liban Libre) an ad with pros and cons

Hmmm, here's an ad for Radio Liban Libre with pros and cons.
Same typography and colors used for the Lebanese Forces during the elections leaving little doubt as its political orientation (same trick used for the martyrs' mass I covered before).
What kind of headline is that? "Always by my side". Hmmm - if it's about it's frequencies, it's ho-hum, if it's about something else - such as emotional comfort (that's what candies are for!). So not sure this is a substantial promise.
On the whole though, the ad speaks loud and clear to is own targeted audience.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mark Tungate spills the beans on this years' Epica Awards

Mark Tungate sans bow tie!
This year, the Epica Awards - of which this blog is a proud juror - will be held in Amsterdam (drool) and so in anticipation Mark Tungate the multi-hyphenate editorial director at Epica spills some beans as to what to expect.
Interestingly Epica seems to have "reintroduced our World Cup category, which comes along every four years, obviously. We’ve also created a new category for Topical & Real Time Advertising, reflecting the 24-hour nature of brand communications. In terms of the Grands Prix, we have a new Responsibility Grand Prix, for cause-related work, and an Alternative Media Grand Prix – because we find that some great work is now almost impossible to categorize. Finally, we have merged the Press and Poster prizes to create a single Print Grand Prix. This enables us to really promote and honour print. As journalists, print is still dear to our hearts."
However prior to the Awards - where you will see Mark punished by wearing a bow tie when the rest of us are in casual mode - there will be the "the annual Creative Circle event will take place at the fabulous KIT Royal Tropical Institute, a national heritage building which has for years been devoted to the study of sub-tropical cultures. This year’s theme is “Will Responsibility Kill Creativity?” The format is quite different in that it will take the form of round tables with advertisers, agencies and the media. The idea is to discuss whether respecting sensitivities around gender, inclusivity, diversity and other hot potato issues is discouraging edgy, risk-taking communications. Can you be politically beyond reproach without becoming bland?"
As to what is trending this year, Mark says that "[i]t’s a little early to say, but judging by trends in the industry, I think we can expect more purpose-driven advertising. Most brands seem to accept today that they are more attractive to consumers if they have a commitment to giving back to the world in some way. The creative use of data will continue to be a theme, and perhaps the use of artificial intelligence will begin to make inroads."
And so there, as a juror I take immense pleasure at seeing all the wonderful ads yearly even if - including the same ad in 7 different categories gets on our nerves when you hated the thing from the get-go! And so here we go again for another year!

FFA and the non-award ad

So FFA Private Bank did win awards. But the genius of their ad (right in front of their HQ) is to dismiss it and say "our only award is your trust". By playing the humbleness card, the (private) bank managed to check all boxes in terms of advertising genius. Do note, at the bottom two major awards the bank has won including Banker magazine's best private bank in the Middle East. But then again, your trust outweights all of this. Now if only I had enough money to be a client for a private bank....

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Nadim Karam opens his A.MUSE.UM in Daroun

So yesterday was the opening of A.MUSE.UM - the atelier-cum-exhibiting-space-cum-architectural-maze - nestled in the former terraces beneath the architect's traditional Lebanese house. Is it a gallery? It is. Is it an atelier? It is. Is is a projection space with multimedia capabilities? It is. Look, the space is so incredibly polyvalent, with many exits and entry points, with a humongous quantity of light pouring through, adorned with Asian influences but also rooted in Lebanese traditional craftsmanship.
Karam has certainly his own style, and he has embellished the space with small take away cards with words such as him seeing a fleeing tiger in the sky in Tokyo and that "It was magic." Or musings about death giving him both his smallness and boundlessness.
I have know him since 1994 when I covered his epic (and I measure my words) T-Races BSC4791 exhibition at the Sursock Museum. A feat which I sincerely believe remains unparalleled and unequaled in terms of works exhibited in a semi public space in Lebanon.
And since this is an advertising blog one cannot but recall the wonderful SF MOMA (San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art) campaign which took the Museum as "muse":

Kiri tries to diversity its products.

Kiri - known for its cheese cubes - tries to diversity its products with a "snack" that's 85% milk and priced at 1,000 LBP (0.66 USD at the current rate). Obviously it is a trial to diversify from its main product it is known for much like its competitors (think Picon, or Puk) have done. Well I have no numbers at hand for either of the brands but somehow remain convinced that their "bread and butter" (a pun?) will always be the poduct they are known for at base.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Nadec goes where few have gone before!

Using one's brand in the headline or selling line is - as I mentionned previously - an exceptionally hard thing to do! But Nadec has managed just that with their "el nashat 3am bi nadIc" (instead of "nadec" with the line meaning "vigor is calling you"). This joins the very limited and exclusive club of brands using their own name creatively. I do hope Nadec would consider keeping this a selling line as opposed to a limited release for that milk bottle. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Another mavel from the Suzuki Lebanon 50th anniversary.

Hot on the heels of yesterday's post, I discovered annother beauty from the Suzuki 50th anniversary campaign - or the bonsai cedar. A perfect example of how two cultures meet: The traditional art of Japanese horticulture and the Lebanese emblem par excellence. Seriously, this is some very fine work between these two visuals. Long may it continue!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Suzuki Lebanon and that epic 50 years ad

Sometimes you see an ad and you get jealous you were not the one to have done it.
This is one such example. GABS - the Suzuki dealer for Lebanon for the last 50 years - comes up with this masterpiece. In Japanese, their selling line is written (Strong Together) and in Arabic calligraphy (which is either handmade lettering or a typogaphy not used in advertising frequently to get this personal effect) "for 50 years". Easily sits up there among my favorite ads of the year.
Here's to 50 more - I am severely impressed.

Media & Advertising goes against stereotype!

"Everyone wants to be big & beautiful. So we do."
Forget all of those harping on the idea of diets, we have a company in Lebanon preaching inclusiveness, plus sizing, and is ready to roll in today's standards and thin ones be damned. The ad is for themselves actually, and indeed - very catchy and interesting. Seriously, when you realize how much everyone was stressing on a specific stereotype and then Media & Advertising (that is the actual name of the company!) goes against the grain saying everyone wants to be "big" and in extenso "beautiful". Little one can do but be impressed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Muratbey and that awfully long headline!

Well, perhaps I am no expert, but Miratbey is not a name familiarto me in terms of cheese brands. So for their (up to my knowledge) first foray into the market they came up with this incredibly long headline (which references a local wedding song) "we came we came we came, we came with the tastiest cheese and we came" - notice: If you are driving by the logo of Muratbey (unknown to the public) is barely readable or perceptible in terms of proportions. That they are advertising a sub-brand called helix is also not showing. "Less salt" and "without preservatives" is drowned into the visual.
The problem is that the image is actually very professional and well done, but between that very long headline, the unknown brand in the market and all - sadly the ad fails to convey its purpose.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Malik's and the Gabol bag offer...

Apparently, if you donate your old school bag at Malik's bookshop, you get 25% off any Gabol bag. The ad does not state what happens tot he old bag, according to Malik's the donated bags will be given to "poor families in need and related charities" - so that's an excellent initiative and a win-win for everyone!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Selling cars (like we always have) #flashback

Originally published 20/4/13
Being someone who, during my advertising career, I happened to work extensively on cars (Toyota, Lexus and Mercedes), it is always fascinating for me to find vintage car ads. However, if the compilation below (which is extensive!) shows anything - it is that we have been selling cars like we always have. Compare any of these to today's market and you will find the same techniques and the same points of persuasion. Which says a lot about today's advertising agencies - that they are still stuck in the past - when the consumer changed and is way ready for something else.
Alvis, a defunct car brand promises (rather creatively) that "Comfort is seeking you"...  "an strength and beauty and security in your hands! if you put you hand on this car".
 Buick is saying that the Skylark 1966 model is "a work of art".
 The now famous 1954 model campaign for Cadillac (it was the first time the whole range was displayed creating "buzz" among the consumers way before the real models reached the showroom) was even displayed in Kuwait.

In 1963 Chevrolet was described in feminine terms (in Arabic it is easy to discern if talking about a male or female). By then I suppose the laws were not strict enough to dispute the male and female in the same image specifically a female who did not have her hair covered and who obviously was seductively talking to the e man.
 But a way earlier version spoke of it as "male"... I guess by the brand wheel personification had changed. But the car was "very big at a cheap price".
 The body copy of the ad could have stemmed from the stylish of any of today's agencies. Same terms, same sentence structures, same descriptive words...
 Chrysler, being "the stronger car in the world" is among other things "the conqueror of the desert"... We beg to differ when it comes to over promising.

Plymouth 1950... I guess the intrinsic characteristics of this car did not matter, but the ad played heavily on "limited number of cars which will arrive very soon".
 I guess since these ads are more in alphabetic order rather than in timeline, by the time the Chrysler Valiant came, people were seeking compact and more practical cars as opposed to the big ones which were previously modeled.
Hard sell advertising for Plymouth again... As ever, short texts accompany indicative photos. Not too far from anything you see in the market these days....
 Of course the smaller Citroen (at least comparatively smaller because by today's standards it would be part of a bigger segment) was bragging about being "fast, comfortable and economical".
 Dubbing it the "queen of cars" once more the same attributes give and take are being displayed for another version of the ad of Citroen.
This ad has already been reviewed previously, but it is one of the original "get the car you get the girl" and in this case, the girl did "not marry him (the old fat man), she married the Desoto"...
 Dodge 1959 was the "bride of cars" (cue Don Harper from Mad Men saying "I hear the fins are bigger next year").
 And in 1961 even Dodge was advocating economy!
 Trucks are samples in the Gulf, specifically in rural areas - forget safety measures - and concentrate on how much load it can take, how much torque it can procure, and how much it can endure in the desert.
 Have you driven a Ford lately? Well, if lately goes back to this stretch, then you were driving a car that was "always in the lead"...
 Hillman was a car for the family, at least that was a clear positioning with among other things "a wide front seat", "electric free air conditioning", and "oil breaks".
 Now think about the logic of International Trucks: If it is the biggest in demand, it must be surely the best. And notice the stress on the 6-wheel technology and other amply emphasized in the body copy.
 So "what walks on mud and water and could not swim and that climbs a mountain in eight ways? Your instinct is correct?" Well, this is a beautiful and creative campaign for Land Rover.
 Leyland Trucks go for the kill - 14 tones on top of the truck (beat that you suckers!)...
 The Mercedes 180 - note that the 180 was not a luxury car which is why the ad is interesting but does not contain any upscale features.
 Now this is a complete surprise! I did not know that Egypt manufactured a car called Nasr 128 - but there you go, they were already delivering the first batches of it according to this ad.
 Opel Kadett naturally branded itself 'strong and economical"... Words previously used and which by then were ubiquitous for small cars.
Peugeot 404 (did you even know it was styled by Pininfarina?) - "robustness,  economy, comfort, security". For some reason this was one of the hugely popular cars in Lebanon. Was it because of that ad? I wonder.
 Pontiac 1938 with the silver line is "once more the most beautiful thing on wheels"... Below you can find it is "the most beautiful, the best manufacture, and the greatest deal"....
 Hold on to your seats for this ad from Pontiac but can you believe it promises "FREE TEST DRIVE"? Yes!!! Even then the concept had been created - which is so infuriating as it seems we did not bring anything new to the art and science of selling cars.
 Skoda, which in the 80s was the joke of cars and which did the most incredible rebranding ever (with the campaign that mocked its own self "Skoda? No really! Skoda!"). Back then however, it was still advocating "large number of spare parts" - could this be a corelation to the woman next to it? (I am not being sexist, merely trying to understand why such a copy would go with a woman next to it).
 Toyota Corona was (it seems according to the body copy) suffering from what Camry was suffering from in the early 2000s. People were picking it because it was a dependable car but had zero "pride of the owner" which is why the whole ad is geared towards flattering the ego of the consumers and telling them about the new restyling while still having the great features people looked for in Corona.
 "Why is Toyota convinced that a car need to be more than just economical?" Read above about consumer ego flattering. It only confirms my theory.
 Land Cruiser, the cars that any Gulf resident worth the weight of his desert sand swears by was marketed in a rugged environment suggesting the great outdoors of the Gulf countries.
And here's a trademark infringement! A "Jeep" from Toyota. There you have it, a car that became a generic name for a whole segment of cars... But the above machinery is a classic though and people still own theirs from one generation to the next in Saudi Arabia.
And of course what is a care without a wheel?... There you have it - three different options available:
  Dunlop emphasizes its structure which is different than ordinary tires.
Nitto are the best for for the Arabian region.

And Yokohama relies mainly on its 45 years of experience.

All of the above, is just a small trying to tell you that "plus ca change, plus ca reste la meme" (the more it changes, the more it remains the same". Pick an ugly typo, put a 2013 car model above, and you get one of our current ads on the streets today!