Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Automatique Idriss (re) opening in Dowtown Beirut

Hold your horses, no,Automatique Idriss will sadly not be opening again in Weygand Street Dowtown Beirut, but it is uncanny I was checking this ad out from my archives only to notice that the (re) opening date was 19th of January, or two days from now. By the way, I could not manage to locate the date of the ad, but Automatique was a very old institution (most likely to the 40s) so the ad above with "air conditioning" means that it is a re-opening we are speaking of (the rage of the air conditioning happened in the mid to late 60s). Still, with my passion for old ads, this one is a gem - I for one, would like to visit "the most luxurious tea-room-restaurant of the Middle East". 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Pitchblack, BrandTribe seems to be on fire!

The odds of me mentioning the same company twice in less than one week are slim to non-existent but hey, BrandTribe seems to be on fire. Fresh from their Beiteddine branding, BrandTribe has also undertaken the many facets related to The Bridge - the newest mega entertainment structure in Saloumi area. Among them, Pitchblack, a nightclub with a name and branding by BrandTribe. Hip, elegant, with the smell of velour coming out from the name, and that suggestive louche ambiance that reeks from the perforated-lettered logo, all while keeping the digital cool vibes with an "A" in the shape of "play" code found on any DJ's set. I'm sold, thank you.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Johnnie Walker gets a Jane counterpart #metoo #timesup

To be fair to Diageo, the campaign of "Jane Walker" was supposed to run after Hillary Clinton's win in the US elections. And we all know what happened there. So with the #metoo movement and #timesup apparently the campaign has been unearthed. Yes, Jane Walker is a registered trademark. Well, let us face it, it was only a matter of time before brands start jumping on the bandwagon of equality between genders. At lest in the case of Jane Walker it makes sense conceptually.

The day I confused a Touch ad for an Alfa ad! (Compare and contrast)


Talk about a mistake!!! I confused a Touch ad for an Alfa ad! The two main competitors in the telecom industry in Lebanon. OK let me recap: When I saw the Touch ad above I thought it was Alfa reheating one of their old lines from a previous campaign.
Until my very obvious error was pointed out to me. It was Touch not Alfa who reused the line.
And now we went into the murky territory of - compare and contrast. Is this an original ad? Is this a copy? Is this outright plagiarism?
I do not care about "branding differentiation" in colors and what not, this is - conceptually - the same ad. So much that someone like me, who runs a blog on advertising, confused the two brands for one another.
Instead of liking it as an Alfa ad as I did, I am now very mad that Touch took the ad outright and reheated it. If Touch is trying to "reply" to Alfa, sorry guys it did not work. At all.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Beiteddine gets a new branding courtesy of BrandTribe

Beiteddine gets a new logo, BrandTribe outdid itself with a new identity that exudes calm, warmth and composure - just like the town in question. The typography is beyond nice - but also not too farfetched or overdone. I am simply wondering however, that despite the beauty of the end product, if the details will show on smaller surfaces such as business cards or even envelopes, but then again I am sure Ibrahim Lahoud the motor force behind BrandTribe has that covered!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Shithole, translated into Arabic

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
Trump is the gift that keeps on giving. Covfefe is now implanted in the lexicon of words. And now "shithole". Unless you were living under a rock it seems Trump wants people from Shithole nations such as Haiti and the African continent to stop coming to the US, instead he wants people from Norway for example. But there you go, it seems many international media were having issues translating the term - here it is in Arabic above. You're welcome!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Virgin megastore, chronique d'une mort annoncee

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
As of late, and after the successful New Year's party in Nejmeh square it seems there is a plan to revive downtown Beirut by taking off the military cement blocks and the barriers put there. The restaurants that were there are practically all closed, Maaarad street is a ghost town, the jewelry stores exist no more, the cafes are all gone, the last two valiant resistors - an art gallery and a sports store - closed down about two years ago.
Apart from Beirut Souks (where four major stores closed down recently leaving large empty spaces in their wake), the whole area seems frankly dead. So the fact that Virgin Megastore closed its flagship store, which used to be an opera house is simply a "chronique d'une mort annoncee" (the chronicle of an announced death).
Virgin already has been outlets in malls, but frankly, one has to give it out to them they resisted so long - the many, many, upheavals that hit downtown since 2005 forced several stores, brands, independent shops, small time sellers to reconsider and - mostly- ultimately close. Day in day out, for several years, any manifestation, public outcry, even - explosion! - would happen in downtown Beirut and roads would be chronically blocked which of course affected negatively the businesses and the ability for patrons to get to them geographically.
When the Virgin store opened, Sir Richard Branson labelled it as "the most complete" (in terms of grouping the several divisions that a Virgin store usually sells) Virgin store there is. But hey, numbers are numbers and eventually, it was time to close.
So remind me again why real estate is not in deep trouble?
Naturally, we all speak of Virgin closing but does anyone talk of the staff they had to let go and livelihoods that are there no longer - livelihood composed by most likely youth and students trying to pay their university fees and exorbitantly inflated tuition.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

So Kababji rebranding is "news"?

Color me confused. No Garlic No Onions says that Kababji is rebranding. I have checked all my 2017 ads and all of them feature the "new" logo. Actually the old version is nowhere to be seen for a long time except if you specifically dig for it on the net.
So either the rebranding has happened quite some time back very discretely, or - frankly - I have no clue why NGNO is saying it rebranded as if it was a "news" item! Not sure if Anthony (who is behind the NGNO site) has any other info which he will share in the future as it is, from a marketing standpoint, many indicators point that this is an already done operation.

How to spell Ikea? With a silent P!

Ikea has partnered with design agency Åkestam Holst to bring you an ad to pee on! “The whole ad is a pregnancy test that actually interacts with your potential pregnancy,” expressed the agency in a statement. “Instead of a simple line indicating a positive result, IKEA presents you with a better price on a new baby crib if you’re pregnant. All in real time, right there in the ad.”
Ikea has seen a slew of incredible winning ads throughout 2017 and the momentum does not seem to back down this year (here, here and this gem from 2016!). The ad seeks to push the "Ikea family" product it seems. 

On defining success and failure, beyond the Linkedin model.

Meeting at the Alcoholics Anonymous bar in Corfu by Tarek Chemaly
Are you ever on Linkedin? If you are, the site is full of "success stories" - no wait, of stories of failure, lesson learned, then success stories. And on it goes - pre-packaged lessons for the uninformed. If you, however, live in the real world, you would be forgiven to redefine success and failure as you go along.
Sure, I will be the first to admit that, I almost made it straight out of the door. Right after graduating till the middle of the noughties I had a streak of incredible luck. Free travels, exhibitions, sponsored high-level courses, international clients, you name it, it was there. My first solo exhibition opened to several hundred people when the only two people I invited were my mother and my uncle, the rest? They came because they heard that a supermarket was about to hit me with a lawsuit because I hijacked their slogan for my invite card. Money was flowing for a long time, not necessarily coupled with either peace of mind or "happiness" (an elusive word I no longer believe in).
So by all measures and standards, I was indeed, a success.
Was I though?
Behind the shiny surface that people judge you on, many other things were happening. Some of them good, some not. Whereas the real trouble was to start later, even then, many things were just not making sense privately - or even publicly - but I was too insisting on making sure the mask would not have fissures in it for people to see what is under.
The very few people who know me privately, and yes, they are rare, know that I differentiate between my public persona and my private one. Put me in a classroom, or in a full-auditorium and you get gold material. No matter what happens behind closed doors, I am capable of delivering. Some of the rare images of me online, taken during the very successful opening of my solo show in 2013, reveal a bubbly, smiling man having the time of his life. At that time my life was literally into pieces, but again, I insisted no one knew about it. What happens to me is no one's business, "Tarek Chemaly" is to remain the brand everyone wants.
Which brings us back to "success" and "failure". I have not led a boring or straight-as-an-arrow life, that is for sure. I changed careers, dabbled in this and that, ruffled feathers, slammed doors, put my reputation online for other people I believed in, and so and so forth. So the many experiences I already gone through made me reevaluate what "success" is.
And no, the Linkedin definition certainly does not hit the mark.
Lately, I have opened an installation at Depot-Vente, a second hand and vintage clothing store. Considering my installation was composed of my own old clothes, and therefore I was burying part of myself, the place was perfect for it. I did not care much how many people actually came for the opening as opposed to the regular shoppers of the store. One person who did come, looked at the work and labelled it "incredibly courageous" (which is was, considering there were even underwear in it!). To me that was already, "success".
Since I do not do decorative artworks (or what I call artworks-that-match-the-sofa), I more often than not do not end up selling my artworks. In itself, this is "failure", but hey, if Vincent Van Gogh only managed to sell one painting during his life, comparatively the several I sold make me a runaway success. See how skewed the benchmark is?
My brother often told me "you cannot dream small". Maybe, as time goes by, the scale of my dreams did change. Perhaps I have downsized it. But well, as my former student once said "you need a vacation when you come back from a vacation" because I usually come armed with thousands of photos of things posted on walls to make a book out of them.
Success and failure are truly relative. A very very wealthy person I know, macho, braggadocio, is in fact very insecure - outside the glitzy life he lives, there is a shallowness he is aware of but not able to get rid of lest it reveal what lies beneath. He is, by society's criteria, incredibly "successful" if you judge by his house, his travels, the name-dropping and what  not.
I wish I could wrap this post with a clear-cut definition that would once and for all put the debate at bay. I cannot sadly. I do know however that each one of us has his criteria to what we dub "success" and "failure" and thankfully, we do not all want the same things.
My mother always told me that "no much how much money you have, you cannot wear one dress on top of the other", and that is true.
I just hope that, we do not end up with a uniform, bland, tasteless definition of what "success" is. The great Oscar Wilde did say: "There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." Just don't tell this to Linkedin. In the end, success may not be about what we "want", and failure is not either.
What is imposed on us, however, is a different story.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

#wifey: I agree with Gino, but also disagree

Gino Raidy has a super article on the blog detailing that the "wifey"-scandal which erupted a while back as two women posted a photo together one of them captioning it with "wifey" is everything wrong with Lebanese "journalism".
I totally agree with Gino.
But also fundamentally disagree.
Sorry if this seems a bit confusing.
But here's the deal.
To begin with, Lebanese law does not recognize blogging as proper journalism. Seriously. I am not sure the law is to be blamed here considering journalism passes above all through highlighters and restaurant "reviewing" - meaning anyone who discusses more in-depth topics are bundled up with the rest of them. But that is not where Gino and I differ in thinking.
I am hereby quoting a part of Gino's article:
"At a time when the LGBTQ+ community in Lebanon is making significant progress, and being openly gay, bi, lesbian, trans and queer is becoming more and more acceptable, the sore losers who think it’s their business what consenting adults do in the bedroom never miss a chance to lash out."
This is not the first time I hear such argument. Do we have a civil society defending anyone from women, to the LGBTQ community, to minorities or house helps or whomever has their rights endangered? Of course we do. And I have via this blog, praised their job continuously.
But to say that "LGBTQ+ community in Lebanon is making significant progress" is frankly a long, long stretch. I teach at university level, and trust me, the things I hear from students or even colleagues at times are beyond appalling to anything or anyone different from the norm. If I am singling out university and not even speaking of clients, or society at large - more on that later - it is because this is the place where supposedly ideas as talked about and discussed and researched. Newsflash: They are not.
In the last few years, there was a project for a graduating student whose premise was: "everyone is OK with homosexuality as long as it is not in their family" and the student in question - overtly homophobic - was defending it vigorously. One of her advisers flaunted the idea that she should quit it - not out of doctrine or human dignity or anything - but because "what if one of the jury members who attend is "like that"?". The "like that" bit obviously refers to an "unspeakable" sexual orientation that does not deserve to be stated publicly. And that, let me remind you, is a university level coming from as student and a adviser. 
Society at large?  Well take this example that happened a couple of years back. A taxi driver I hailed in Beirut saw two youth walking and looked at me and said in Arabic "leik howde el gayyet" (Look at those gayyet). "Gayyet?" - condescendingly as if I was too stupid to understand he explained "gayyet ya3ne gay bil jam3" (gayyet is the plural of gay). Sensing an opportunity to taunt him I ask. "Oh what is that?" - again treating me as a total idiot he answers "men who want to be fucked". "And those who fuck are not gays?" I very innocently asked. "No" he adamantly answered.
I shall leave the misogynistic stories, the ones related to race, or skin color, or ethnicity or whatever for some other time. As I am trying to reply to Gino about the LGBTQ+ angle. Sorry, but I sincerely believe that "progress" is not truly taking strides as Gino says. Maybe in a certain "bubble" it is, but in the fullest meaning of the word for Lebanon at large, I beg to differ.

OMG, hold my Guinness beer

OMG has a lovely self-ad which goes "good things come to those who advertise".
Indeed they do - as I said it before - bad market times are the best way for brands to remain top of mind with consumers (seems though brands are cutting down budgets globally).
Not sure if OMG meant it or not, but this is a reminder of the classic Guinness advertising: "Good things come to those who wait"

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Winfrey-Warren 2020: Sisters are doin' it for themselves

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
The Cecille B. DeMille acceptance speech at the Golden Globes by Oprah Winfrey has opened the floodgates of her running for president - something still not confirmed. But hey, I guess she would not be the first TV personality to make it to 1600 Pennsylvania avenue! So here is the dream poster above courtesy of yours truly of the ideal tag team - Oprah Winfrey and Elizabeth Warren for 2020 in the United States. The line? "Sisters Are Don' It For Themselves" from the Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin song, which would galvanize women woters and bring male voters to shame!

Bundesliga - football isn't about life and death and money.

Hello Bundesliga! OK so I am not a football fan and I do not have a favorite team or player or what not, but Bill Shankly did say "Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that." Indeed, better not discuss football, or religion.
Which is what makes the new Bundesliga ad so special Three suprfans of three teams were taken to a "TV interview" instead they were confronted by "talent scouts" offering them obscene amounts of money to switch allegiances to other teams.
Just watch the full ad to see what happens.
Even if not a football, I could not but appreciate the ad enormously.
Funny story, the only time I tried to meddle in a football discussion on Monday morning at university was when I heard a friend saying he was going to attend a match for his favorite team. So I asked beaming "did the 3ahd team win?" - "no, we lost" my friend disappointingly said. Glad of my conversation I added remembering the Nejmeh team had a match too, "Oh, what did Nejmeh do this weekend?" - and my friend looked at me a bit exasperated and said "Tarek, we lost to Nejmeh for heaven's sake!"
And that was the end of that.

The Ministry of Environment and the brilliant regulated hunting campaign.

Where does one begin with this beauty?
It all starts with the classic Lebanese proverb "better one bird in hand than ten on the tree". Which got twisted into "better one bird in hand and ten on the tree" - this is the campaign for regulated hunting.
Brilliant.
Can it get better?
Yes, the bottom line reads "hunt in responsibility" which when written the way it was in Arabic seems to be addressing male and female hunters. Sure, maybe there are not a lot of female hunters out there but thinking about including them in this egaletarian ad is a stroke of genius.
I have a feeling this will hit my top 10 best ads for 2018 and we are still at the beginning of the year!
Exceptionally well-done!

Monday, January 8, 2018

L'Oreal makes the right call with Winona Ryder

To those who are as ancient as I am - they might recall how Winona Ryder was the "it" girl of the 90s. Not just her career but also her choice of partners. Her star was dizzying and on the rise and rise Then in 2001 it all came to crashing halt as she was convicted of grand theft and vandalism for stealing designer merchandise from a department store - including a Marc Jacobs cashmere sweater. What is interesting is that for her court sentencing, Ryder was dressed by a designer called Marc Jacobs basically sending the message "I-do-not-need-to-steal-the-designer-I-can-get-dressed-by-him-for-free".
But Ryder rebuilt her career step by step, and is now one of the sensations involved in "Stranger Things". L'Oreal picked up on the cue, and is featuring her in a beautiful ad which centers only about the actress. The end line? "Everyone loves a good comeback. Damaged hair deserves one too".
There were people who disliked the ad, but for me it is the epitome of smartness. Simply because Ryder is having her moment in the sun once more (while still not have lost her original wackiness).
Johnny Depp replaced his "Winona Forever" tattoo with "wine forever", but it is indeed Winona Forever. The L'Oreal ad is right on target. Watch it here.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Take Action تحرك a worthy even if multi-vocal initiative (UPDATED)

Lately on the streets there are billboards enticing people to "take action" and under them "for the country to remain". This is for the 2018 parliamentary elections. A bit of probing online resulted in the photos above.
From their facebook page I copy pasted the below:

Vision: We seek to motivate young people to participate in the upcoming Lebanese parliamentary elections and to make their voices heard, with the ultimate goal of a brighter future.

The Mission: Raising awareness about the importance of youth participation in political life Promoting a culture of democracy that harbors a clear expression of the principle of freedom and human rights.To work on changing the social behaviors and attitudes by consolidating the concepts of democracy and active participation in decision-making.To foster youth groups capable of directing public opinion, communicating,with potential voters and encouraging them to vote.

Principles: We believe in young people’s abilities of to contribute towards building a prosperous future. We believe in a democratic society free from all forms of discrimination. We believe in youth participation in the electoral process, regardless of political affiliation.

Now, on the one hand this seems like a shoestring operation done by youth who want to see democracy and democratic thinking widespread. On the other, since there are billboards on the streets, therefore there was funding from somewhere (no international funders' logos appeared on the billboards, but from what I understood four NGOs are behind the campaign: March, Utopia, Lost and DPNA). Lebanese blogger Gino Raidy seems to be on board. And photos of young participants abound.
OK to be honest, I feel the campaign is treading where everyone else has gone before - not least of which using the analogy of "ballot" and "voice" in dual sentences since they both spell out as "sawt" in Arabic. The illustrations and the dull background do not help either. The multitude of hashtags used is a bit old hat (honestly apart from Instragram and Twitter not sure anyone uses hashtags anywhere). 
Oddly - conceptually - campaign reminds me of the "fakker sa7" (think right) which was launched by the Free Patriotic Movement (at least at the beginning of the 2009 parliamentary elections before the campaign went overboard with conflicting and odd messages). An invocation for people to participate and think about their options rather than vote blindly for the status quo.
At the risk of attracting an avalanche of criticisms, and whereas I do support the idea of people enticing democratic thinking and practices as "take action" is doing, I am a bit skeptical - this has been tried and tested too many times and look where it got us.
But some people do not lose hope. In a off the record conversation, I was told from inside the campaign: "Lebanon is a hopeless case, at least that’s what the youth think, and this is what all the events and activities are revealing from North to South. It takes a lot of effort to get them interested and willing to take action, or at least to get them to understand the importance of their role and their influence given their large number!!"
As the English proverb says "you can lead the horse to the water, but you cannot make it drink" - problem is: What if people want this pseudo-feudal clientage system? What then?
The caricature below is a good sum up:

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Pandora hints....

"Send him a hint so strong he can't go wrong" - says the Pandora ad. I am not a big fag of the rhyme it sort of cheapens the ad, but I truly loved the TVC (even if in the Arab world we got a different version of it) specifically the part where one woman thinks she got cooking utensils - only to open the casserole to find what she really hinted to her man. Oh, and that woman trying a nut as a ring to get the message across to her man - priceless!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Air Canada, a glorious ode to home.

Air Canada just came up with a stunning visual essay about "home". As a concept, idea, reality, country. Just perfect. The ad is incredibly well-crafted but above all, very very written with those kinds of copywritings one only dreams of. Simple, touching, smart, not very sophisticated but eloquent and deep. When the narration got the part: "Because we don't live at home. Home lives in us" my jaw was on the floor. Interestingly this is actually the Palestinian mantra "every person has a country they live in, except us (Palestinian) we have country that lives in us".
No matter, the ad is excellent, very emotional and touching without even trying - and only based on simple, relatable experiences we all live as human beings.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Jenez el Arb3in opening on Friday January 5th at Depot-Vente

You are cordially invited to the opening of my installation "Jenez el Arb3in", the traditional mass held for the souls of the dead 40 days after their passing which will take place on January 5th at the Depot-Vente stores between 3 and 6 P.M.
The installation will question identity, how we portray ourselves to society via fashion, colors and shapes and asks if we actually change as much as we think we do.
For directions: At the end of Mar Mikhael el Nahr, towards Burj Hamoud, turn right in between Mandaloun and the Bank of Beirut, then take the second on your left, at the intersection you will find a garage called Auto Clinic. The installation will be at a few shops to the right of Auto Clinic (the one with the green door).
The installation will be in place until January 21st.
This is an open invite, please come and help me rest in peace.