Thursday, November 15, 2018

John Lewis & Partners enlists Elton John for the Christmas ad

Right on the heels of John Lewis & Partners + Waitrose & Partners Bohemian Rhapsody, John Lewis & Partners (solo) enlists the magnificent Elton John in an anthology bringing us back to his childhood and his first piano. That the John Lewis & Partners Christmas ads are now waited for is an understatement, and this one - with of course nothing else but "your song" for a soundtrack - should really, really, move you. Watch the full ad here. Some gifts are more than just a gift. Some ads are more than just an ad.

The Epica Awards results are out. Here's a sample.

And so the Epica Awards of which this blog is a member of the jury are out. There are indeed too many categories to count, and this year's results read like a bulletproof expected winners - I am not here to disagree with the other phyical jury members but some campaigns were obviously designed for the awards season. Pity a lot of gems were sidelined for the "expected" ones. I, for one, still favour simple and effective ads.
Here's a sample of the Gold winners who will be competing for the Grand Prix:
For the World Cup category NCDV won for its abuse series:
For the topical and real-time advertising, thankfully, they picked the lovely Aldi fresh prints ad:
For the retail services how about this funny one from Ex Libris bookstores?
For the restaurants, bars & cafes McDonald's wins it with this cute one (there was another gold for Burger King funnily!):
In the public relations category, the Price of our Lives (the symbol for the March of our Lives in the US - or how much the National Rifle Association is paying per politician per state) won:
In the print craft section, we have this lovely effort from Sweden:
In the packaging design Le Beck wins with this lovely one:
Lacoste wins the premium and luxury brands category with its "save our species":
Actually list goes on and on and on.... Let us see who will win the Grand Prix. My own favorites did not make it however. Here's what my assessment was for this year (and considering Epica is a major reflexion of the state of the advertising in the world today) "how desperate can one be?" Indeed, too many campaigns erred on the side of the "wow" only to end up as "meh" (some of the winners I did not even bother cover as I felt they belonged to that category). People, let's get back to basic: Doing ads that are catchy, lovely, instead of focusing on mechanisms so complex and outright silly they make our adds just for today, yet tomorrow completely forgettable.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Almaza - the (deja vu?) 85 years ad that finally works!

And so finally it worked! Almaza has issued its 85 years TV ad and finally - thankfully - it works. The ad speaks Arabic thankfully, and goes back to the history of the brand since 1933 with archival footage mixed with present day people drinking th beer. The mix and match is well-done digitally and it works. Maybe, just maybe, because the new ad by Leo Burnett looks like two drops of water - or is it two drops of beer? - like the ad that Intermarkets did for the brand's 75th anniversary (which you can find here)?

Carrefour, another meh, yet brilliant, ad.

Carrefour did it before - an ad so badly laid out, with a haphazard typography, that stood out from the crowd and fulfilled its mission (please see here). So to misquote the saying, if it's broke why fix it? "If you find any item cheaper (than ours) take it for free". Horrible typo, less than average layout, message clear and delivered. Seriously, it takes effort to be so average yet so clear!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

M2 Multimedia Megastore - independence, not Black Friday, sale.

Well now this is a lovely ad: "Keep black Friday to whom it belongs". Obviously with "black Friday" (minus the Thanksgiving) hitting Lebanon yearly, M2 Multimedia Megastore has had enough of it and wants everyone to knnow they are organizing an independence day sale (which falls on Nov. 22nd). Honestly, with us bastardizing events from other places I can totally relate!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Responsibility already killed creativity - on the Epica Awards debate

Christopher Wool - If you can't take a joke
The Epica Awards Creative Circle is offering a full day of workshops in Amsterdam. The theme is "will responsibility kill creativity". Not to be missed for sure. I have been working in Journalism since 1993, and in advertising proper since 2001. That I am a champion of marginalized, unappreciated minorities is a sort of a trademark for my writings and creative work. I have a close Swedish friend whom I care for dearly, once though, I was this close to getting physical with him however. Remember I am a war child and between 1975 and 1990 and I have lived the full extent of the Lebanese gruelling war.
Here's what he said: "I too have been through a war. I got a divorce."
Here's another story. In this year's Epica Awards, there was a campaign by a brand whereby they employed war photographers to shoot women who survived breast cancer. A noble initiative for sure. Yet an initiative which had me call it "rubbish" in the comments section and which made me score it 1 out of it (or "damaging").
So you see, I tend to be sensitive about many issues. Some "innocent" statements I read as being insults to my life experiences - experiences that forged me into who I am.
On the flip side, and no matter how much I tend to be cautious in my use of words, I can still take a joke.
Pardoxical? Maybe.
Yet, I think we live in a world that has lost all notion of - the humour at looking at one's self.
Here are some of the things I do in class as I teach in a creative department:
I beat my students..
I insult them.
I berate them.
I say obscenities in class.
Well, there are a million ways to look at things, and the above is one of them.
I am known, as a teacher to:
Give my students a small slap on the back when they do something idiotic (no malice, no force - several notches more playful than the one that you see on NCIS with Gibbs offering it).
It is not uncommon, when something is so obvious yet the student is incapable of seeing it, for me to say (in a super playful tone) "w bahle!" (oh you twit!).
I say, almost every session, "you go up with that non-creative idea of yours to the fourth floor and throw yourself from the edge!" - the fourth floor being the top floor in the building. Actually recently, a student - based on my laser-piercing unamused look at his pseudo-creative work - looked at me and said: "I am off to the fourth floor!".
I often say "f***, make it sexy" with "it" referring to the work they are trying to do.
Whenever I say or do these things listed above, the response is - almost uniformly - a funny smirk from students if not an outright full smile.
But if I started this post with such shocking statements it is because, today, I feel we have lost the nuance-element that transforms them from one meaning to another, which we normally call: Context.
Indeed, very simply, today we lack the context of things.
Mind you, in just a decade, the whole structure of things changed - I have been teaching since 2005 at university level and the change in the students' mentality is so discernible and palpable. They are now more pampered at home, catered for, no urgency for them to go out and find work and contribute - if not to the household income - at least to get some experience and feel what "real life" is all about.
I think parents are doing their children a bit of a disservice in that domain. By over-protecting them they are shielding them from the million ways things can be interpreted in - and not all of them bad.
In a a television episode from the 80s, an Ethiopian maid comes into the screen singing an Arabic tune, then in the following scene late actress Amalia Abi Saleh comes in and continues cleaning the house while singing an Ehtiopian song. I still smile at the memory of the scene.
By today's standards this would be cultural appropriation! Side note: the "maid" was the real-life adopted daughter of Abi Saleh. Which makes the scene a full tongue-in cheek about their day-to-day life at home.
Which brings us back to - context.
The same applies for creativity.
Can we include playful insults? No.
Can we show a certain race? No.
Can we stereotype? Heaven forbid, no.
Can we speak in a local/geographical accent? No.
If I was told there was a teacher who beats his students, says obscene words in front of them, insults them and encourages them to commit suicide, I would be the first to ask for him/her to be banned from the classroom. Which of course, makes me a hypocrite, as again I "technically" do these things.
But once more, that would be taking things out of their element and the narrative in which they happened. No, I am not saying let's apply relativity to everything and dip it in color so that it exonerates every bad deed we do and twist it to make it palatable.
I do hope this is not appearing too paradoxical. It isn't.
I am just saying, there is a whole world of difference between a teacher berating a student labeling him "idiot/imbecile" (and lowering his/her (the student's that is) self-esteem in the process) and between one playfully teasing him/her "oh you twit!"- normally my sentence continues "come on, the concept is looking and you in the face and slapping you, can't you see it?" - and then the light bulb comes on and there would be a high five. Funnily, the student would then ask when I go back to their table for a correction: "is it sexy now?".
When I was at school, my late aunt happened to be our Arabic teacher, and Richard was a kid in our class who had an acute stuttering issue. When we got to the reading session, and Richard had to read aloud like the rest of us, my aunt gave him ample time to speak, read the text despite the stuttering. That experience forged me, in the sense that, whatever sickness/disability the student had, treating them as normally as everyone else boosts their morale, instead of capitalizing on their shortfalls.
Actually - quite a long time ago in my social stratification class - I was doing a paper on the disabled and one of the quotes that a man on a wheelchair said to me was: "the most beautiful thing you can say to me is, "come, let's take a walk"".
Today, however, before starting the semester, I get clear directives "this girl/boy is sickly mind how you treat him/her", "that one's parents divorced be gentle on him/her", "this student is very introverted so no point pushing him/her for a discussion" and the list is endless. And what did I do? I asked my student who has health issues to be the one to speak on behalf of her group, just like everyone else. No special treatment, no nothing.
Of course, feeling she was being treated "just like everyone else" bolstered her confidence, she found her voice, delivered the work in question, stood there proud to be "just another member of the class". The story starts with all the don'ts, all the "be careful with him/her", all the red flags, but when the student is given a "context" - not that they are the sick-one-with-health-issues-to-be-treated-with-velvet-gloves but rather the-student-who-showed-up-to-class-and-must-perform-in-the-normalcy-of-the-situation, you have no idea how their whole outlook changes.
Sometimes, the students needing normalcy are those you expect the least: A married student of mine who had a daughter once told me "ever since I got married and had a child, I became invisible - wife of so and so, mother of so and so - in your class, it was the first time I regained my identity as myself, a a full individual who is not a wife or a mother."
Of course one of the dangers of what I am writing is that it makes it look as if every rule, every gesture is elastic, that one could cross to "the other side" (wherever that is, and whatever bridge one uses!) and come back. Not true, I'd never inappropriately touch any student, I'd never date them, I'd never berate them on a serious tone, or if I notice any sign of mental health issues I'd be the first to pull them aside for a frank talk (yes, it happened - and several times). So once we put everything into its context, many acts take a different significance, one that Google - with its ready-made answers that lack the story of how the answer came about - cannot give us.
I am a teacher with very unorthodox methods. I admit to that before anyone else.
Yet also as a creative, with unorthodox methods.
I am still capable of laughing about myself above all else. This is what humour is, to accept to be the butt of one's own jokes.
Because you see:
I love my students.
I praise them.
I entice them to go further and higher.
I say empowering words in class.
And sadly, by limiting the jokes factor, in a lovely playful context, responsibility already killed creativity.

Tropicana plays the constant card.

Tropicana juice has a new ad which says "breakfast changes... but Tropicana is daily". What is a little odd is that the ad only offers one type of breakfast (the manoushe - the thyme on a dough), no labneh no kenaffeh, no other variants of a breakfast. Yet underneath you have several flavors of Tropicana. I felt it goes a little against the concept. I do like the line but the visual left me confused. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Almaza - 85 years campaign

I still have no clue what the new Almaza is. "New" as in the one that migrated from Intermakets to Leo Burnett. Its identity is - vague, at best.Almaza seems to be celebrating its 85th anniversary, for that they are coming up some "pass the bottle" thingy. The winner gets free Almaza beer for a full year (yeah, try this an "drink responsibly" at the same time!). There is even a # to go with it #friendssince1933. OK, OK, I get it, they are targeting the millennials and all. But there is something definitely not working strategically. From the "mostly" English language, to the lack of consistency, to a brand still all over the place. Oh and just for fun please see this video (compare and contrast - pass the email/pass the bottle?).

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Touch independence diary that backfired.

Well, that didn't take long. A smart idea in the wrong context. Touch, one of the two cell providers in Lebanon wanted to initiate a day-to-day diary of the independence in Lebanon (which happened on Nov. 22, 1943 mind you). Smart, and on daily episodes too. What Touch did not anticipate was the savage slaughtering it got in the comments. Seriously, so savage I am not sure if anyone has the guts to go on with the campaign if I were them. Literally someone wishes we were still under French colonial rule considering how bad and corrupt our current politicians are - other comments are even more fierce. Ouch!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Nido keeps it gender-specific with its low-fat ad

So here's the deal: I am a male, I am in my 40s, and I am diabetic. The milk that my doctor recommends is low-fat. But no, if it is low fat, according to Nido, then it is directed to mothers who want to keep in shape and their daughters. All other audiences are excluded. Again, Nido (and many other brands for that matter) associate low-fat with a specific gender as if others simply do not exist on the charts. Many men for different reasons, would not mind (if not to say actually require!) low-fat in their diets. But then again just like Fairy, and Vileda, some things are for women. I have nothing against ads for women just to be clear, but Nestle should perhaps review its strategy, target audience, and its advertising agency should learn to live in present day and time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Abaad #minelfelten #shameonwho

Abaad portrays how people react to rape. And it does so in the most explicit, brash, cruel, smart, authentic way. First see the video here.
What is interesting is that we see the girl (an actress) playing the role of the raped girl. People are both sympathetic and condemining. They wish to help but are restrained by moral judgements, they see the human but refuse to compare her to their own sister, the make value judgements based on clothes and appearance yet without knowing any of the backgrond or character.
All faces were blurred except for the girl who - bravely - agreed to the role (if I say bravely it is because I know an actress who was offered such a role who could have catapulted her to the public eye but refused it based on moral and judgemental grounds).
A true experiment from today's Lebanon.
#shameonwho indeed!

To those who missed seeing me on #BalaToulSire

And for those who missed me on TV on #BalaToulSire with Zaven Kouyoumdjian, here is the link!
Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Exclusive sneak peak into the Epica Awards shortlist.

Ah ladies and gentlemen, one of privileges of voting so diligently online for the Epica Awards is that I get to see the shortlist exclusively. Well, first the word is a euphemism as there is nothing "short" about it. Let's break down the numbers first:
This year Epica received 4020 entries from 69 countries, a 20% increase on the previous year despite difficult market conditions. This was driven by the return of the Publicis Groupe networks, plus an enthusiastic response from Germany and Latin America. Indeed, the highest number of entries came from Germany, followed by the United States and France. New countries this year included Iran and Morocco. In terms of networks, BBDO and McCann Worldgroup were particularly well represented.
There are 738 entries preselected in total this year. Some are gathered under one campaign as specified in the list (a campaign of 3 parts amounts to 3 entries for example) - thankfully, some of my own favorites made it to the list (last year my predictions were spot on).
This year in the film categories I am torn between OTTO "La Paz", and John Lewis & Partners Waitrose & Partners "Bohemian Rhapsody".
For the print, there is that small, lovely, totally incredible, Aldi World Cup ad you see above. I really blew me away as much as "Brad is single" by Norwegian Airlines which won Gold in 2016.
UAE is there this year with 2 enties (the Umobuwa for Babyshop and "Roman" by Mashrou Leila - both by FP7/MENA), Egypt too with an entry by FP7/CAI for Orange "Now or Never" - all Arab entries are quite lovely to be honest. So I do wish them luck progressing to the finals.
So here we are, I pity the physical jury as they have to go through the gruelling job of judging the preselected entries even if Marc Tungate is an excellent facilitator - still the task ahead is not mean feat.
The official shortlist will be out on the Nov. 8th so this was your sneak peak.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Kharouf - eat while enjoying funny copywriting


So nothing wrong eating while enjoying the packaging! The proof is in the (wrapping) of the pudding. Case in point, Kharouf! With such lovely copywriting wrapping its items.
"3arous bint halal" - 3arous is both "sandwich" and "bride", so pick her from a good family.
"m2atta3 mwassal" - chopped in pieces to make a whole. A local expresion which is about someone who has been places in life. Oh and do note the wink in halal too (also bint halal is someone who comes from a reputable family).
"3amel el 6 w demmeta" is a twist of the expression "he's done the 7 and more" (i.e. someone who has done all the nasty things and then some). In this context it refers to the meat being slow roasted for 6 hours.
Apparently this is the work of Milk Creative. So good for them!
So, any questions?
Lovely inside out (pun intended).

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Will Beirut Beer ever make sense?

Will Beirut Beer ever make sense? I am talking of their ads such as (this) and (this). Do note, the copy is not too shabby however, it is the transition from the scenes to what is supposed to be the concept that makes the ads so difficult to swallow as it feels the ads are - erm - detached in terms of where the creative idea is to lead. 
The "fir wa2t ma elo ta3me w fi wa2t elo ta3me" - which is supposed to be a double endendre "wa2t elo ta3me" can mean "meaningful time" and "has taste" does not drive home the point. Then we arrive to the meh selling line which is "sar wa2ta" that basically is anti-Almaza (a positioning that drives me mad as this means the Beirut Beer brand has no intrinsic feature) - the line translates as "now is its time" or "now is the time to switch".... 
I just wish Beirut Beer would just pull itself out of the shadow of Almaza and find what really makes it special - or not special.

Lada makes the best out of a bad road.

At least our Russian friends are pragmatic - if the roads are not to be fixed - why not get people to drive over bad roads. Both ads for their 4x4 Urban and the Vista Cross emphasize the same point: If the roads are full of holes or are in bad condition, then driving a Lada get you off the hook (it also gets the ministry of transport off the hook as well). By the way - there several car ads on the roads these days, not sure why especially that this is the school month where parents have a lot to pay so not sure anyone is exactly able to afford thinking of cars.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Tonight I am on #BalaToulSire with Zaven Kouyoumdjian

Tarek Chemaly's artwork 
Tonight I am on #BalaToulSire with Zaven Kouyoumdjian on Future Television to discuss my pet peeve - pop culture, specifically the anime Grendizer and my "history of Lebanon via pop culture" which readers of this page and my Insta followers have come to know (and hopefully love).
Readers from around the world can follow on this link - at 17:30 GMT.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Khoury Home does Halloween

Well, Khoury Home does halloween with "scary/spooky prices" in Arabic however and in this context - moukhife means "impressive".... So the double entendre works, and no costume is necessary... Funny and low-key ad, what's there no to like!

Ksara does Halloween

I admit I have other fears, however, if at a party.... This could find itself on top of my list: An empty glass of wine. Well why not? This comes from Ksara, so it fits with the idea. *goes to the bottle and tops glass, a cheaper alternative than confessing all of this to a therapist*
This is a cute one.

The AUB Gender and Sexuality Club had to cancel its Halloween event

It is good to know our youth are smarter than their elders. Instead of commenting on this I will simply repost the words of the club as the whole matter went totally out of propotion:
"To our members, allies, and supporters,
We would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your continuous help and encouragement with our events and activities through the years. We would also like to thank the Office of Student Affairs and the American University of Beirut for their support and endorsement. We are humbled by the ways in which we come together in solidarity, echoing the club’s mission to provide a safe and educational space that mobilizes around fundamental bodily rights for people of all genders and sexualities on and off campus.
Tonight, a Halloween themed queer speed dating/mixer night was meant to take place. The event, a Halloween costume party, was misrepresented as being hosted by “AUB Sex Club,” by people who are clearly unfamiliar with our club’s ethos, activity, or even name. It was accused of promoting immorality, when all its true purpose was the provision of a safe space for a marginalized community on the account of its bodily autonomy, gender expression, and non-normativity. The event held no expectations of the participants and had no sexual implications of any nature.
As we value safety first and foremost, we canceled the event. We understand the disparities among people of different backgrounds and the inability to afford the luxury of public visibility. We are aware of the structural difficulties that make some people more vulnerable than others, and we decided not to go through with the event as long as safety is not guaranteed, as we will not compromise the well-being of our members and friends. The event was meant to be a safe space for conversation, therefore, we could not but cancel under the current circumstances.
The LGBTQ+ community and the religious community are not mutually exclusive. We, at the Gender and Sexuality Club, work on the intersections and the freedom to be heard, understood, and have access to basic rights such as freedom of consciousness and autonomy over one's body. We are inclusive of migrants, refugees, stateless people; our existence is broader than a single realm of struggles, and we aim to add our point of view, support, and experiences to the mix.
We will remain strong in our stance. This will not deter us from future events or struggles, we use the experience from this and many others to build ourselves up as we fight for justice."