Monday, August 19, 2019

Saturday, August 17, 2019

#TAKEASTEP when good intentions go astray

Now, here's an interesting ad in the worst possible moment.
Customers go to a Bank ATM and try to withdraw money. The only option is 4 USD or 6000 LBP. After much commotion the bank employee comes and suggests many options then asks "what? 4 USD is not enough?" - then it is revealed that this is the poverty line under which many Lebanese live per day. There is even a tag in the end #TAKEASTEP (even if the Arabic line is much better really "we should give a damn"). Now, where's my hiccup?
Lebanon has been having many - many - erratic banking strategies. Sometimes you go to your bank and the teller tells you "no, there's a new directive you cannot withdraw that much cash", sometimes you go to the ATM and - again - you are capped. You banker will give you 19,367 reasons why he cannot convert your Lebanese money into Dollars, or alibis as to why you cannot send international money in Dollars, or the Western Union agency is now obliged to get money in Lebanese while the government keeps the Dollars and so on. So watching the ad, my heart - litteraly - sank: What now? I kept thinking! And even when the revealer came indicating the government is not giving my bank account a haircut or anything, I was still upset at the ordeal I was just put through.
So the ad is nice, but truly this is the worst time to put it on TV what's with new regulations popping up weekly! Make that daily!

What advertising needs is a community (but not the one you think of)

As a profession, advetising has the highest rate of divorce in the world - one can easily say "oh but that's because there are no official working hours", or what-not. I think it has to do with the gigantic ego people in advertising carry though. Who wants to live with such people? No offence to a certain Slovenian model who married an American reality star turned president. But I digress.
On my cubicle at an agency I worked for I had a paper that said "please leave your ego at the door". Only people who work in the ad business know how irritating it is when someone barges into your space - along with their over-inflated egos - and try to boss you around because they think they are some important creature. One such person (no names) who was head of an ad syndicate whose tenure was so useless, still likes to be called "president". In his office there is a huge photo of a local politician introducing him to a foreign head of state. I smirked looking at it - when you ask the said "head of state" who is this man you are being introduced to? Would be remember? I sincerely doubt. The ad business is full of such people. Men and women alike. But again, I digress.
I am quite introverted in character, but when I moved from Beirut in 2010 to my village, I re-learned what it is to be part of a community. In French they call this "donnant-donnant" (give/give back). Our neighbors do not even ask me if they can park in my garage. I do not drive so the parking of my house is almost-always vacant. Our elderly neighbors almost always pass their medical tests by me prior to meeting their doctor, and invariably I need to indicate to them which indicators tell if their diabetes is worsening or not. When the son of a neighbor wanted to open a new business, I sat him down for several hours running through the numbers. Whenever there is a funeral I go up to the church salon to present my condolences knowing that in 99% of the cases I have no idea who died.
So, you might ask "OK Tarek this is the "donnant" bit, where is the other half?"
Well, one of the neighbors who park in garage is an electrician, so when my heater decided to stop during the Easter Sunday storm that hit Lebanon this year, guess who I called? His brother is a hair dresser so as per the custom of hair dressers who close shop on Monday in Lebanon, he actually comes to our house early in the morning to do my mother's hair and in those incredibly damp winter days he cuts my own haird too (easy, been shaving it off on "1" since 1989) so as for me to avoid going to my own barber under the rain.
But "community" can be complicated too as a word. I had a lovely flowery hibiscus tree behind my house, except that its foliage was so low that it was impossible to pass there without having pollen on your clothes. So when - with the help of our ever efficient Ethiopian house help - I managed to break one such low branch, two minutes later the Syrian refugee renting the house across from mine materializes out of thin air with nothing short of a hacksaw. Less than 10 minutes later the hibiscus was severely pruned and the fig tree next to it as well. I invited him for a coffee and when I went outside to see what to do with the remaining wood (which he neatly arranged in a pile), the man who lives several houses down asks me if I want to give them to him to store for winter. I gladly obliged and added an old ladder on top of them.
All this is fine and dandy Tarek but what does this have to do with advertising? Let me tell you, these days all ads seem to center around youthful friendship. University students in sepia-colored-instagram-friendly-VW-camper-riding-good-looking-youngsters-living-their-life. I do not see two elderly women gossiping on the balcony anywhere. I know you do not believe but these friendships are fickle, they are glued by geography and math courses more than anything else. Move down the road with age and experience and you realize these people will not stick with you.
I do not see a real gathering anywhere which involves real warmth. Remember the Junal "7ameda kif?" ad - its genius was simply including two women (they could be neighbours or friends) giving their opinions about the cooking the other is doing. "Tante Blanche" our next door neighbor in Beiurt used to do that frequently simply dropping by as my mother was cooking to taste whatever was on the pot and see if anything was missing.
Remember that classic Barilla ad? No you don't you are perhaps too young. I am talking about either the original in the early 80s or the bit less effective redo in the mid 90s. Which was simply a family agglomerated around a pasta dish)Whereas staged it really felt "real".
Perhaps we need more ads like that wonderful, warm, tender, and incredibly well-executed Arak Brun campaign which came courtesy of Omar Boustany. It felt so genuine, because it was. And it resonated so well, because it reminded people of what is lacking in advertising - a community.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The upcoming Les Caves du Roy exhibition at Beit Beirut

Les Caves du Roy, le nightclub of the Excelsior hotel will have its own moment in the sun soon at Beit Beirut with an exhibition worthy of the iconic status this place enjoyed, and which opened in 1955 and "officially" closed in 1982 following Raymond Daoud's birthday party (the club and hotel had already closed prior being the place where one of the "hotel battles" took place - with Noumour Al Ahrar (the Kamil Chamou militias) occupying the Excelsior).
The project is helmed by Delphine Abirached Darmency, who describes her foray/excavation as such to the L'Orient Le Jour: "The first thing I saw was the branch-infested Excelsior pool, which due to the trailing water and the passing of time, became beautiful shadows. The floors, the terrace, the restaurant, the reception and the bar will follow. Everything was burned. Some items were lying under the furniture, on the bar. Pictures, documents, registers, telephones, salt and pepper shakers, stacked candles, signs of a melted time. Even a bottle of champagne dating back to 1975. There were two ripped sofas, red carpets, a lamp."
I can speak at length about the project that Darmency is spearheading, with the contribution of Cynthia Zahar (curator - art direction and scenography), Stephane Lagoutte (curator - photography), Eliane Achkar (curator - multimedia installations); but why not take it from the source and read about it how they want the project explained and portrayed here.
As someone whose works entirely built on the past, and with many - many - exhibitions claiming to work the said past (most - to be quite honest - are lowest common denominator with no concept whatsoever) I now wait impatiently for this exhibition. Do visit their page directly here!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Infiniti - when in doubt, just add Baalbeck

Well, how's that for a local flavor? When in doubt just add Baalbeck! This is what Infiniti did at least. Interestingly the rest of the landscape has nothing to do with the Roman monument (I know so because I was recently there and saw the six columns exactly from that angle, and trust me it has nothing to do with what you see when you look at the columns this way). So there, want to integrate your brand in the Lebanese landscape? Just add six Roman columns!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Annahar nails it for its industry issue

Annahar means "day" so in the ad for their industry issue they headlined "every day and our industry is well" but the real catcher? Is wrapping the Bonjus pyramid  juice with annahar headline going full pop culture in the process! By the way the pyramid is indeed so iconic Sarah's Bag did their own take on it as a small clutch - see below:

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Daily Star goes black after Annahar went white

So The Daily Star went black (Annahar had gone white earlier, but it proved a major controversy as a Turkish newspaper had done it earlier). OK so you can read all about it from the horse's mouth here. Hmmm, well, OK, so The Daily Star is the only English speaking newpsaper in Lebanon, and - well - I am not sure who are its target audience. In the 90s and early aughts it was clearly the expats and the high ranking executives. At a later stage, I am not sure who ended up reading it. Still, there you go another "eloquent" blank edition. 

About those odd doozy illustrations

Hmm, Doozy is an insurance company (new one as far as I know, its website says it is part of Arope Insurance). I am not sure how it happened, but every time I open a link on the net its ads are there starring at me. The issues? (apart from the fact I do not drive) I cannot for the life of me, take the company seriously because their ilustrations (and their mascot) are borderline childish at best, silly at worst. The mascot in question is a bland character, hastily drawn, wear a bowtie, with no eyes or capability of transfer emotions.
To be honest I am not sure how this idea got voted and to which target audience (youth? first-time car owners?). Even the company's logo has a sort of slender non-capital letters typograhy - which goes against the usual "trust-me-I-am-here-for-you" mantra which would let you believe in an insurance company. All this is too confusing for me to  be honest.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Tarek Chemaly x Beirut Pride collab: the gift that keeps on giving

In 2018 I teamed up with Beirut Pride to release a campaign under the #lovveislove idea. The campaign has zero budget. It was released on their insta, mine and my blog. Here is the text that appeared with it below:
"Beirut Pride is teaming up with Lebanese artist Tarek Chemaly to bring you a celebration of the 14 degrees of love in the Arabic language leading up to Valentine's day. In a world that makes it a sports to bully, harass and belittle anyone who is not standardized, it is good to remember that love comes in all shapes and forms, so to anyone who feels something special to any other individual, regardless of race, gender, or whatever "attribution", this one is for you."
I was told the campaign still is trending today, people sharing and resharing it, it appeared on goods by Retrieving Beirut, and it was a backdrop at the Disney Magical Pride event in London earlier this year during Hadi's conference (Hadi is the kickass behind Beirut Pride!). What touches me the most is how a campaign done on a shoe string budget on Paintbrush (not even photoshop!) can still resonate so deeply with people.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

A ministry of Industry campaign too ironic for its own good. #بالوطني_بدعم_وطني

So the Lebanese Ministry of Industry has a movie to promote Lebanese consumption. See it here. In itself the task is tough. The movie goes in all directions at once. Now if the purpose of the movie is to promote consumption of Lebanese products - mentioning Euro Disney generators is a tad strange, or how international companies use our robotics (neither of these are FMCG items), if the backbone of the economy is thyme and summac then we have a serious issue! The main problem is that the movie has too many ironies for its own good an keeps shooting itself in the foot that way - too many jokes about the economy, too many dismissive responses from students, and honestly, no coherent clear message. It does not help the casting is less than optimal as well. Plus there is a tag to boot: #بالوطني_بدعم_وطني
So the takeaway is: Where do I buy those Euro Disney generators?
This being said why did they not stick to the nice slogan:
بتحب لبنان؟ حب صناعتو
You love Lebanon? Love its industry
In one of those "if it ain't broke don't fix it" cases.
The slogan which was coined when slain Minister Pierre Gemayel was Minister of Industry, has firm roots in an old poster by the Phalangists (which were created by his own grandfather - Pierre Gemayel after whom he was called), the poster in question (circa 1976) is below:
Photo taken from Maria Chakhtoura's book La Guerre des Graffiti
You love it... Work for it.
The analogy between the two slogans is uncanny once you think about it.

Friday, August 2, 2019

National Commission for Lebanese Women does this year's best Army Day

Sometimes it takes nothing to make a good ad. "Together we protect the nation" - simple, strong, efficient and powerful. Just the graduating promo doing the army oath. Nothing too complex or too overdone. Sleath and truly touching. Yes, this could be this year's best Army Day ad. And this comes from Clementine! Well done. Truly so low-key and impressive.

Adir does Army Day

OK the photo is less than optimal (I am not arguing if the kid is handsome or not, just that nothing works in it esthetically!) but the line completely saves the day! "Elak kell el t'ADIR" (you have all the gratitude). Pity the photo reminds me of olden Clementine (the agency that did this ad) where the same kids would be used almost haphazardly in all ads to - honestly - bad effect! But as I said the line does save the day.

Jawhar Al Nahl does Army Day with a disaster

Where do I begin to dissect how bad this ad is, and how much time do you have?
Jawhar Al Nahl sells honey.
"We (sweeten) your celebrations".
Enough said.
Without any doubt the worst this year.

Tinol Paints goes colourful for Army Day

"It carries the colours of our flag". Well, Tinol Paints did a decent ad, which blended both - what it sells and the army -  no one can hope for more! Psssst: Next year Tinol why not say "mbayadlna wejna" (makes our face white - or "makes us proud"). Still, a neat, clean ad, well done!

Darina does Army Day. No, seriously.

Well my friend summed this ad as "so bad it is good". I guess Darina, a juice brand, was trying to include its brand in the Army Day - I think it is kind of derogative towards the army to be honest. I mean turning half a coconut into a helmet does not spell "respect" at all. But then everyone is going into a frenzy trying to double down on how much they love the army. I rest my case.

#thisMILKshakes indeed!

Disclosure: I was a creative consultant on this job. Well, Milk Innovative got itself a new positioning - #thisMILKshakes because like la pie qui chante, they are "petits mais costaud". Do note, apart from the overall consultancy the minimal website is their own work - check the site here, the company seems also to be present on all social media platforms! Naturally, I cannot be impartial since I had to do with the job, but this surely puts them in a class of their own in terms of what they do and how they do it! So here we are, enjoy their labor! 

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Ksara does army day with no camouflage in sight.

"We are all in your "rank"" (which translates into "we are all on your side"). Ksrar wine does Army Day which happened to be August 1st, with no camouflage in sight. A neat, simple, concept-focused ad. What's there not to like?

Congratulations, now the Mashrou' Leila concert is cancelled!

Photo by Tarek Chemaly
The Mashrou' Leila concert scheduled on August 9, during the Byblos Festival has been cancelled. There! Happy now? Do note, I speak not as a superfan of the band but rather one concerned about where things are going in terms of simple things like expressing opinions, singing a song, and just merely breathing in Lebanon. 
Is this about the band's lead singer being openly homosexual? Is this about them tryng to "undermine religious and human values [and] attack sacred symbols of Christianity" as per the statement of the Byblos archbiship? Or them being a "danger to society" as per Lebanon's Catholic Information Center? No matter the invented reason, we now joined Jordan banning their concert, and Egypt arresting 75 people in the wake of them displaying rainbow flags at a Mashrou' Leila concert. The bar is pretty low. Speaking of bars I think I need a drink.

So Snapchat just trolled Instagram.

Snapchat just trolled Instagram. In a series of posts on popular quote accounts, Snapchat just launched some quotes related to #realfriends and #friendshipquotes in an attack on Instagram where real friends cannot be done, and where fakeness supposedly rules. It is interesting Snapchat started its campaign this way as it generated much buzz. Now, should this translate into real world numbers I know not. Is this the new Pepsi/Coke rivalry? Maybe you should look at this satire article in The Onion dating back to 1997 about the cola war casualties. Still, way to go Snapchat, in the age where ads go unnoticed, this one was seen.