Thursday, July 19, 2018

Epica Awards are now back! With Wieden + Kennedy ads

So what's better than the Epica Awards (of which this blog is a proud juror) being back? That they are back with such a lovely campaign from Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam. Basic? Yep. Graphics seemingly done by a first semester art student? Check. Spells out the concept of "cut through" creatively, funnily, and smartly? You bet. You see, for all the over-productions we see in some ads, it is always - always - the concept that ends up winning through? Here's a previous Gold winner at the Epica:
Advertiser: Far East Mercantile Limited
Agency: Insight Publicis Nigeria (2016)
So come on agencies in the Middle East show us your guts.
Hint: Epica editorial director Mark Tungate really, really, loves the Panda Cheese ad from Egypt.
Another hint? Back in 2016 an ad from the region almost made it to the very very top of the charts - so why not your ad this year?
A third hint? The more ads from the region, the higher the probability of me attending in vivo and pushing you all the way internally! Tadam!

On legalizing medical cannabis

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
So apparently the McKinsey report has among its propositions to boost our faltering economy:
Creating a banking hub
Encouraging tourism
Legalizing cannabis.
The "banking hub" thing? Well, let us face it - we are not Dubai. That's it, let's not kid ourselves. Already there is a big question in certain circles is the Lebanese Pound to the Dollar peg is going to hold - and whereas the official word is still comforting with a tone of confidence - the fact that banks are giving such high interest rates on the Lebanese Pound is indeed quite freightening (we are talking 12 to 15%).
Encouraging tourism is a lovely idea - people still think outside of Lebanon that there is a war raging, and for those a little more educated, they know what there is no war in Lebanon but we are too close to Syria for comfort.
Let's go now to legalizing cannabis for medical purposes. Surprisingly, the families now planting cannabis are actually for that! They want it legalized so as for the vast patches of poverty in the region be controlled. For the government to step in and do its job. It also helps that arrests warrants will become void so as for the people to actually work outside of the region.
However, development is a political before it being a social issue. All political parties must agree to one thing, or alternatively barter on it against something else.
Which brings us back to almost square zero. Considering our MP elections happened in May it turns out that we still have no government for now because it takes all the different political factions to agree on one thing, which is a quasi impossibility.

Michel Vaillant - questioning history (65)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
Michel Vaillant, the man who introduced "vrooooooooooaaaaaaam" to the lexicon of words.... Of dreams of speed, of dreams of cars, of dreams of manhood - while tomorrow is not even a certainty.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Nido - questioning history (64)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
A classic jingle for a classic slice of life - immediately drilled into the nation's psyche.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Nike celebrates France's second star in World Cup

So now that the French have beaten the Croatians in the finals of the World Cup (yet the Croatian president showing grace, sporstmanship alongside with the fact that she travelled coach, sat with the fans, and did not accept payment in lieu of her days off - and basically stealing the show as she hugged both teams' players at the end of the match), Nike is riding on the bandwagon of celebrating France's second star by - hmmm - showing the second star being sewed above the national emblem which is the rooster on the jersey. A bit underwhelming to be honest. See the full film here.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Rans Car - questioning history (63)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
It is now a pharmacy, but it used to be a car rental agency - I'll speculate and say the first such agency in Lebanon. And the jingle was horrible, and its name was Rans Car (Rent a Car). The 80s in their epitome of kitsch.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Jana of the Jungle - questioning history (62)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
One of those improbable stories - a girl raised in the jungle. No wait, we had that a boy before. Still on it went, she was beautiful, wild. And she made kids dream away from bombs.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Why is Beirut always portrayed as a bubble?

Well, it seems there are two ways of portraying Beirut in the international press:
A destrcuted city (which is when we have periodic wars and upheavals) and a "bubble".
The Mecca of modernist architecture? Check.
The Middle East capital for bike-riding revival? Check.
The coffee-culture city? Check.
The pubbing-and-clubbing destination? Check.
The haven for graffiti artists? Check.
The entrepreneurial-hub of the region? Check.
The list continues and is endless. And it gets on my nerves.
Modernist architecture? Well last time I visited the Gondole building... no wait, the Gondole, much like many other structures got torn down.
Bike-riding? Let me check, I have no official statistics, but if I am to count the bikes in Beirut - including Abo Tawila the ambulant hairdresser everyone keeps harping about - and considering the mad traffic in the city, no wonder the number of bikes is dismally low.
Coffee-culture? When the price of the cup of coffee is abnormally high due to rents (and here I am referring to my friend's Dan Azzi's theory of "invisible claws" - which tries to counter Adam Smith's "invisible hand" economic theory) and when the said cafes are populated by hispterish people, no wonder the older generation feels excluded.
Pubbing-and-clubbing? Monot then Gemmayze then Mar Mekhael with an incredibly high rotation of places opening and closing. I rest my case.
Graffiti? OK, I am the one who introduced graffiti to the academic circles, and my Archaelogy books who to be honest are still an incredible success (freely available to see and check etc...) are an extension of the work of the grande dame of graffiti collecting Mrs. Maria Chakhtoura. But in an inteview I did with her Mrs. Chekhtoura herself told me "for me graffiti stopped when the combattants stopped using coal and moved to stencil". So when graffiti artists need to submit their designs for approval from the municipality - this is when you know we have a serious problem.
Enterepreneurial hub? People, I give workshops for start up and most of the time my thinking is "who on earth agreed to fund this?".
All of this reminds me of Tawfiq Yusuf Awad's seminal novel that predicted the war "Death in Beirut" (Tawahin Beirut in Arabic) - which described the city as "a deux vitesses" (on two speeds) an upper middle-class that is hipserish and almost detached from the real life (even though they hold political meetings) and a deeply conservative society with patriarchal-dominated values, religious and moral codes upheld above all else, and again - the list goes on.
The crescendo of the novel which unfolds towards disaster as it continues only makes one wonder how long we can sustain that bubble before it bursts - again, for the millionth time, in our faces.

Al Chabaka - questioning history (61)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
Al Chabaka magazine, scantily clad women on the cover, revealing ad seductive shots, and talks about the arts and artists at large. Were we more liberal, or was it a bubble we lived in?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Someone is readying to jump - new series by Tarek Chemaly

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
Based on the poetic anthology "ahadouhoum yasta3id lil kafz" (someone's readying to jump) by poet Charles Chahwan, the works reflect on his words, images all while relating to mine. With 27 poems come the same number of digital collages exploring the link between the written and the visual imager.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

We Link - when every bit helps to fight unemployment

We Link is a new job-posting site where everything is for free - job posting and application and all that. With the unemployment rate being what it is right now in Lebanon - officially at 31% and unofficially no one can guess (estimates that for under 30s the rate is 47%) - then every bit helps to fight it. This I suppose where the new We Link falls (pity the logo looks like WC not WE). Because the site is still new the number of postings is still low, but hopefully with time and contributions (and word of mouth) it will hopefully grow to fulfill its potential.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

British Airways - football's coming home

So British Airways is anticipating the World Cup and issuing a ticket for the cup in question to go back to the expression used to often "football's coming home" but there are also so many clever clues thrown inside the ad - "Gate: South" in reference to Gareth Southgate who manages the team, the seat is 52H which is the number of years since the cup was won by England, and the timing of the trip is 19:66 which is the year the team won the cup. Smart but also with wonderful embedded details beyond the obvious!
Interestingly, in 2014 Lufthansa issued this ad. But at least Lufthansa waited till the World Cup finished till they did it:

Zomato is environmentally friendly, restaurants are not! UPDATE

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
Apparently, food app Zomato has a super feature where you can ask the restaurant not to send the plastic cutlery. I have a drawer full of them that I periodically empty in the recycling bag, only to be replenished by restaurants even if I ask them not to send any (another analogy is when I ask shops to put my stuff in as minimum bags as possible even tough I recycle the plastic - you should see the look of horror on their faces).
The problem? Zomato is environmentally friendly. Restaurants are not - apparently the numebr of restaurants who have adhered to this directive is abysmally low, which is sad, but it also reflects the lose environmental standards restaurants adhere to no matter how CSR they claim to be.
Out of journalistic fairness, a discussion happened on facebook about this issue with multiple points of views which you can follow here.

BMW X3 Wonder Dad

I just watched ad that lasted a quarter of an hour, and I watched every bit of it, was not annoyed (on the contrary I was so completely taken with the story), and in the end I got emotional. Welcome to the BMW father's day release for the new X3 model in China. Please watch the full film here.
The story blends Dong Dong's (the child) imagination with his father's real life career and hassles along with classic Hollywood stunts and martial arts moves - naturally the child reinterprets grown up's words with his own limited vocabulary (negotiating with a client becomes negotiating for a hostage release situation), and of course the whole crescendo to get to the school's play is extremely tightly knit (even if the denouement is a little reminiscent of the Allegro costume party debacle we have seen earlier). But this does not belittle Wieden + Kennedy's efforts for BMW. A lovely emotional ad indeed.

Monday, July 9, 2018

In Beirut sind die Nächte lang - 24 hours to kill in Beirut #flashback

Originally published: 16/6/12
Don’t you just love Google algorithms? While looking for a chemical formula under google images, I stumbled upon the movie "In Beirut sind die Nächte lang" or "24 hours to kill"… A German movie shot in 1965 in Beirut. Here’s the synopsis:
“When engine trouble forces an airliner into a 24 hour layover in Beirut, the plane's pilot finds himself in the crosshairs of crime thanks to his duplicitous purser. Lex Barker assays the hero pilot role with ease, while Mickey Rooney thoroughly enjoys his turn as the seemingly hapless criminal. Walter Slezak rounds out the caper as a deadly smuggler.”
Pity embedding the original trailer is forbidden…. But watching it is a must! Above are some of the snapshots taken from that trailer… Basically, it’s the usual mishmash of the epitomized image of Beirut: Lust, intrigue, modernist architecture, Phoenicia Hotel (and yes, there is a scene where the pool which gives way to the bar is seen!), Nadia Jamal (the belly dance), the nightclubs and get this – at the time private helicopters could land right next to Baalbeck ruins with no “yellow t-shirts” in sight… and… well, “it’s like Beirut” (before the sentence became Jad Aoun’s nightmare).
The movie's name in English is "24 hours to kill", a very nice double-entendre, naturally with the evolution of technology, nowadays Lebanese can do a full murder in 24 seconds.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

So, was I guilty of plagiarism?

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly or by someone else whose work I have "borrowed"
"If we're looking for originality, we might as well go home." John Hegarty - when he was president of the jury in Cannes Lions. On the surface of it, this remark from none other than advertising great John Hagerty is dangerous, it basically allows us all to take each other's work and appropriate it as our own and get away scot-free.
Themes used creatively in advertising are basically the same - families, outings, good times, motherhood, graduations, slices of life, and the list continues. So with this in mind, all ads should look the same and truth be told most of them do. Actually, when a student is confused as to how to do a proper layout for an ad, our common advice is "look at any magazine, if the ad is good enough for L'Oreal (or insert the name of any multinational here) then it is good enough for you in terms of layout".
"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9) and Arabic poet Ka'ab Bin Zouhair did say "I only see what we say but regurgitation, or a repetition of something we already said" (the artwork above). These quotes seems like a laissez-faire invite to basically go out and pick whatever we want from other people's work. Which perhaps we actually do.
Besides as someone asked me in a recent discussion "what's in it for you?" - true, what's in it for me? Let my students go and get "inspired" or "borrow" their projects - what's in it for me if they do. Let my clients show me ads previously done and tell me "I want an ad just like this" (yes, it happened with a former client), let my clients say "I asked my lawyer, the penalty for copyright breach is much lower than the charge of using the work in question, so I will use it" (again, it happened with a former client).
Again, what's in it for me?
John Hagerty is too smart to fall into such a trap, he was simply saying, that since everything has been used and over-used, it is how we dress up old ideas into new ways and dip them into innovative sauces that matters.
The idea of "girl dancing in a perfume ad" is a silly, uninspired one. Then you have Spike Jonze for Kenzo.
1984 by George Orwell? Sure. Then you have Ridley Scott for Apple.
Two major stars divorcing? Yellow press material. Then you have Norwegian Airlines.
"Watching our channel makes you love movies". Dull, boring, unimaginative. Then you have "The Bear" for Canal+.
"Good artists borrow, great artists steal." The quote is attributed to a certain Spanish painter.
In this context, calling someone a "thief" could be a compliment.
But hey - I chose this shocking title for this post maybe to stir a debate.. The reason?
Yesterday, Souk Sawda (an instagram account that sells vintage material) asked to "delete immediately" two of my artworks because "the image is ours and we can prove it" adding that I should not "edit [our] images" and claim it as mine. I replied saying that according to copyright laws, I was in the clear. Yes, I screenshot the images for the Souk Sawda account, and gave them a very complicated conceptual/artistic treatment. The images were modified enough, were artistically treated, they were of uncertain origin - these were international images which were appropriated by a Lebanese erotic magazine published in the 60s and no one can clearly claim ownership of them, in addition my instagram account is mostly an educational one - meaning certain copyright rules do not apply. Last but not least, Souk Sawda and myself are not in the same business and I do not sell competing goods (or counterfeit, plagiarized ones based on theirs).
I did delete the images out of courtesy, even I knew that ethically and legally I was in the clear, but I wanted to initiate this debate about the notion of plagiarism simply because I hold ideas sacred and dear.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

BLC Bank - an effective double-entendre

If proof needs be that an ad can be effective without being farfetched, look no further than the new BLC Bank for their Kafalat program. It is not the modalities or interest rates that drew my attention but the simplicity of the ad. "With such an interest your "maslaha" is with us" - in Arabic maslaha means both "type of business" and "benefit" at the same time. See? That was not so difficult! Yet very effective.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Moet et Chandon sponsors the Beirut Hotel Wars #flashback

Originally published: Dec. 22, 2009
Just like I sometimes feel that the Palestinian Intifada was "sponsored" by Nike (Otherwise, why were there so many Palestinian youth having the logo on their black hoodie as they threw stones?) some of the most memorable images of the Lebanese war also have "brands" and "sponsorship" on them. Like these photos taken during the celebrations of the Phalangists as they won the Holiday Inn during one of the Hotel Battles - the jubilation was to be of short duration - they lost it back to the Palestinians not so long after. But the Moet et Chandon photos are still a testimony to that frozen moment in time.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Smirnoff of labels and people

Smirnoff has three ads running in town, two of them pictured here - "no more dress codes", and "open house open minds" (the one not here is "party nation no discrimination" - with all three carrying inclusion-like messages where everyone is accepted and all participants are on equal footing. The brand also signs with "the world's no 1 vodka" - what is obvious is that this is a continuation of the "labels are for bottles not for people" campaign that Smirnoff initiated late 2017.
Well, to me the epitome of the Smirnoff ads was one that ran in the 90s which sadly I did not keep (or find yet): Vodka from the time when the vodka mattered not the bottle. If you can find any clearer jab at Absolut and its famous campaign please show it to me, till then this should suffice.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Airbnb - let's keep traveling forward

It could have ended up just another gimmicky CSR ad, it could have been boring, it could have been touchy-feely and forgettable, it could have been another one of those let's-jump-on-the-bandwagon-of-the-issue-of-the-moment, it could have been another Melania "I don't care, do you?" jacket diss. Instead? The vintage archive images were used to their utmost potential with a simple trick. Watch here to see how Airbnb managed to churn an unforgettable, smart, witty but also humble ad. Let's keep traveling forward indeed....