Wednesday, February 26, 2020

M2 goes anti Coronavirus

And you thought Lebanon did not have enough issues? OK my first reflex was to ask if the mask was anti tear gas for manifestations or anti Coronavirus because in Lebanon one never knows. You can purchase the mask on this link. PS; You better ask if it works for tear gas. Justsayin'....

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Marlboro and Baalbeck - the oddest tie-in in history

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly based on a vintage ad
Remember when Marlboro tied itself to Lebanese oranges? It was certainly one of the oddest tie-ins in all history. But hold my beer, it seems Marlboro continues the same campaign with tying their cigarettes to Baalbeck columns. "In the whole wide world, these columns are the symbol of Baalbeck, in the whole wide world, the symbol of cigarette quality (is) Marlboro". Yes, I know...

Monday, February 24, 2020

Crepaway does lent.

So Crepaway is advertising an incredibly appetizing lent meal. Interestingly, their ad says "if you are fasting or don't feel like eating meat" a clear nod to vegetarians (or even vegans a a vegan burger is present on the menu). The menu is fantastic to be honest (mozzarella burger for me, thank you!), and marks another year where brands are using the word lent in their ads. Just to give credit where credit is due Classic Burger Joint was the first to do it in 2012 in the ad shown below.

Pizanini the perfect example of how ads are morphing

Well, a nice, clean animation - not award winning, but should it be? - this is how Pizzanini is the perfect example of how ads are morphing. Ads with low budget, targeted online, towards people interested in them. No more OOH or fancy display budgets. See the ad here. It drives home the point, does it at a small budget and in a visual language accessible to most.

Friday, February 21, 2020

IDMgo - a perfect gem of an ad

And sometimes the best ads are those that do not try hard. "The atmosphere is one to get bundled with IDMgo 4G". "Kankane" is the local Lebanese equivalent to Hygge. The visual illustrates perfectly the cold weather we are having (when it is not raining, it is incredibly cold!). See? No extra gimmicks, no idiotic words. Just a simple wonderful ad. Whomever came up with this has my respect.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Typography Day 2020 Amman, Jordan.

Typography Day will be organized for the Thirteenth time on 28th, 29th February and 1st March 2020 at The Faculty of Arts and Design, The Applied Sciences University, Amman, Jordan with support from The Lebanese University, IDC School of Design, IIT Bombay, India Design Association (InDeAs) and Aksharaya.
The theme for this year's event is 'Typographic Dialogues: Local-Global'.
The Typoday 2020 venue originally scheduled to be held at Beirut, Lebanon is now being held at Amman, Jordan.
The event will feature a day of workshops on Typography and Calligraphy followed by two days of conference dedicated to 'Typographic Dialogues: Local-Global'. The international conference will be devoted to addressing issues faced by type designers, type users and type educators. The conference includes presentations by invited keynote speakers, eminent academicians, blind juried papers, industry professionals, research scholars and students. The event will also host an exhibition of selected posters and typographic works of students and faculty members from Design Institutes.
Registration Open on this link.
Do register as early as possible, and for all queries contact

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Kiehl's Lebanon - when good intentions go astray

Kiel's  Lebanon has a new initiative - it will donate 5000 Lebanese Liras upon your purchase to IRAP. The initiative the laudable. The problem is how they portrayed it. Please look here. This is exactly how hearing people imagine how non-hearing people live and behave. Oh and getting "influencers" on board irritates me as hell.
I have 57 and 62% hearing loss. I have been wearing a hearing aid since 2007, lately I had to replace it by two such aids, which were exorbitantly expensive, and after installing them I was told that they will only allow me to regain 80% of my hearing.
So no, Kiehl's and your influencers (who suffer no hearing disabilities) this is not what hearing loss is.
It is having a fight with a family member because, after making them repeat the same sentence three times, you still don't know they want, it is stopping driving and reducing mobility because other drivers are no longer predictable for you (especially in Lebanon), it is decreasing your socializing because all sounds mix together at the pub, it is to have someone quasi illiterate laugh at you when you graduated from three reputable universities like me, it is to unconsciously look at anyone talking to you because you are reading their lips without realizing it, and the list goes on.
I repeat, Kiehl's - your initiative is laudable, but this "snobbish" way (for lack of a better term) of illustrating it which lacks empathy, respect and compassion really insults people who have hearing disabilities like me.
And by the way, anyone who wishes to reply to me on this article, unless you have a hearing disability I am not listening - yeah that's a pun.
And I am really pissed now.

D Does Business vs OMT: Compare and contrast

D Does Business has  published tips as to how to survive in the current times... Here they are here. OMT just published a suspiciously similar list. Hmm, well, this is a little odd considering the points of intersection.

Monday, February 17, 2020

StarzPlay and thematic renewal cards

StarzPlay were one of  the last campaigns that ran prior to the revolution and the whole OOH getting almost completely shut down. Their ad at the time was quite nice:
The idea of "rakkeb floume" - means "invent crafty scenarios" - and it works as this is a film app. And now they are back for more with the specific recharge card - Arabic (dagger), Horror (ghost), Comedy (chicken feet), and Action (bullets). Interestingly the price is now in Lebanese as opposed to the original ad which was in Dollars.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Cosmaline - Valentine's Day

IntreSting that this year brands have changed narrative from love as man-woman to family/friendship/brotherly thing. Cosmaline gets on board with a very efficient film, which is simple, well-done and warm - the triple braiding scene makes it worth the while alone. Oh and it ends with "with all pride and love, made in Lebanon". Watch the full film here. It flows easily, and makes it look as if easily done, but make no mistake it is complex to do simple!

Friday, February 14, 2020

Anthony Hamawi & IPT vs Coral - Valentine's Day

So Anthony Hamawi tweets a joke "no one fills your place in my heart" (a famous Majida el Roumi song) - signs it IPT (oil and gas supplier). Coral Oil picks up the ball running and does the - to be fair - cute visual. Now is this a copycat, an non-credited joke, an opportunistic maneuver.... I know not? But something is rotten in the kingdom of gas stations.

Twitter - Valentine's Day

Smart! The branding is almost imperceptible, but you'd know immediately what brand it is. And the layout super clean, and the message quite funny. Now, where's that "edit" button?

Thursday, February 13, 2020

City Center - Valentine's Day

Eiffel Towel? Check. Locks on the Pont does Arts bridge? (actually Paris removed those locks) Check. Romance? Check. Paris? Hmmm what's with embassies not-being-too-generous with visas and banking cards maxing at (less than) 100 Dollars either in cash or POS outside Lebanon, I suppose City Center Mall thought: If you cannot go to Paris, Paris will come to you. Side note: To many many Americans, seeing the Eiffel Tower means going to Las Vegas - enough said!

Burger King - Valentine's Day

Couple goals? Nope - this year Burger King is catering to the single! Bring a picture of your ex, they will grill it, and you get a free whopper on top! Bah, pity I made a bonfire of my ex's photos already! I mean revenge is a dish best served grilled!

Galerie Hanna - Valentine's Day

Well, not sure copies of "fifty shades of grey" are included in the sale, but they might as well be. In an ad that promises to be the hottest contender for "best ad" Galerie Hanna did make us feel like it was an earthquake, no pun. Hmmm, well, I do hope they have one bed in good condition - for practising you know!

Ksara - Valentine's Day

Well, they aced Independence Day and now are going for "open your heart" on this Valentine, with leaves proptruding from the stem - no thorns though. Romantic enough I guess! And subdued/intimate enough as they're not into flashy.

Spinney's - Valentine's Day

"Why is Valentine('s day) more beautiful this year?" asks Spinney's supermarket? Enter a plethora of answers which include Lebanese loving one another, or "we're too old for that", or "my kids", or what not.... Only to end with "no matter how hard the circumstances, love is always the base". Ah, this is what you get when you mix mercantilism and marketing.... Check the whole video here.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Lipton Ice Tea - Valentine's Day

Now here's a completely cheesy ad, that actually works. Don't ask me how though! You know those instagram photos where you double tap for the heart to appear? You see them everywhere, from photos of a girl with Down's syndrom, to small kittens to what not. Well, in this case and in anticipation for Valentine's day, Lipton Ice Tea did the same trick. How it works is beyond me, but it does. Kitsch springs eternal I suppose.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

In Lebanon, our peace is a bit violent

Abou el Marajel - artwork by Tarek Chemaly (from the series 3 bi 1)
This is a real discussion with Nawal (on instagram), the ever illumminated woman behind depot-vente, who also happens to be a friend. Her original post was:
"Peace is a concept that indicates a state of tranquility but also the lack of perturbation, trouble, war and conflict. It also corresponds to a social and political idea."
So I answered "so peace does not include - let's kill those mother****ers?"
"Haha nooo... I just want us to win without losing people" answered efusively Nawal sticking to her point.
"Bah! Peace in Lebanon is a bit more violent than that!" I retorted.
But just to be honest, there are two sayings in Lebanese idiom to prove my point:
"Iza ma kebrit ma btosghar" - unless a problem gets big it does not get resolved.
"Ma elak sa7ib ella ba3d atle" - you only get a friend after a major beating.
See? I told you peace was a bit troublesome in Lebanon! Ideally, we would  need more Nawals. Practically, I am here to help.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Government confidence vote: Slacktivism at its worst

So everyone is changing their Facebook avatar to "la thika" (no confidence) in reference to the confidence vote session of the government (the joke of course is that phonetically it resembles Lecico the sanitary wares company). This reminds me of  "liking isn't helping" - the Crisis Relief Singapore ad which illustrated that liking something online has no implication on the actual situation, ergo a mere act of slacktivism (slack-activism). I am not being a defeatist, but how such a move online will get translated on the ground is beyond me.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Lebanon and the Coronavirus

There is an Arab saying that goes "the worst plight is the one that makes you laugh". Well, a Lebanese woman posted a video of her saying she fled China and is in Lebanon right now and that might be infected with the Coronavirus. Only for someone to reply to her "please go immediately to the parliament, you're our last hope". I laughed when I read it. This should tell you how bad the plight is right now in Lebanon!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Of brands and revolutions: The case of Lebanon *

Investing in advertising when the market is bad is a known recipe for success, because when conditions improve, clients are bound to remember your brand. Lebanon however, never was your typical market: : marketing departments work on a haphazard basis; advertisers are there to make a quick buck; consumers have little or no brand loyalty left. And the latest political and economic crisis – seen as a revolution by some – makes things even worse: everyone is trying to save money under the very strict capital controls banks are now exercising (customers can only withdraw a couple hundreds dollars weekly from their accounts), which translates into a sharp drop in ad spend. In fact, the questions facing advertisers are, even, existential. When a country is questioning the very foundations of its system and future, advertising becomes more testy: how will people react to advertising – brands trying to promote themselves and their products – when they live in a pressure cooker every day?
Two schools of thought emerged: one posited people need a sense of ‘normalcy’ when everything is crumbling all around them; the other, more austere, insisted that there were more important priorities than luxuries such as ads. Eventually, the ones preaching belt-tightening won, a flagrant example would be usual the flurry of ads for end-of-year festivities: This year, only one restaurant and one hotel advertised but with C-list celebrities.
Early on, when the crisis first started in October and with no one knowing how long it would take to subside or how serious it would be, most organizations refrained from committing to either strategy. Many declared they would be closed on such and such day; only local food joint Crepaway (popular with the middle- to high-income bracket) went a step further, posting: “In solidarity with Lebanon [sic] fight against corruption, inefficiency, and lack of proper economic strategies we will be closed today. Stay safe and peaceful.” The message’s tone made a stark contrast with the cautious one other institutions were adopting.
As the situation went from bad to worse, people’s buying power dropped so much that most stores announced massive sales as early as the beginning of December – usually the busiest month of the year, it ended up barren.
This plummeting could be best observed in the outdoor advertising business. Less than a year ago, Lebanon was a billboard jungle; any flat surface was good enough to hang ads on it. Today, billboards and unipoles are all covered in white sheets of paper or with remnants of older ads. A campaign – that used to require six hundred billboards to be visible in Beirut – could be very prominent, comparatively, with just one. Facebook and Instagram ads are filling the void created by the fall of OOH.
Banks – usually the engine behind the Lebanese ad industry thanks to their ample budgets – all but stopped advertising, having to contend with the protesters’ (and Lebanese population’s at large) complete loss of faith in the Lebanese banking system and its players, accusing of being responsible for the financial quagmire people were paying the price of. For a short while, they tried to spin a narrative that the government “had made them do it,” to no avail.
Many then reversed gears and went pseudo-patriotic: Byblos Bank, for example, released the tagline “Because Lebanon Is Our Country for Life” – a riff on their earliest selling line, “A Bank for Life” – on Independence Day; BLC used the country’s national emblem, the cedar tree, to come up with: “During Storms, Cedars Only Get Tougher.”
Naturally, some brands tried to capitalize on the events, with more or less success.
- Homewares maker ANF’s cheeky line “You'd Know the Original From Its Sound” was inspired by the casserole-drumming marches.

- City Mall’s sales ad “Revolutionary Sale” was much less effective and was received poorly.
- Rizk Group’s end-of-year card showed the ‘thawra’ (revolution) hand emblem with a an attempt at wordplay between ‘yeghle’ (simmering) and ‘meghle’ (the usual delicatesse prepared to celebrate the birth of a new baby), to bland effect.
The crisis is also giving rise to derivative categories, starting with a new term coined by Dan Azzi - a retired banker and a financial analyst: ‘Lollar’ – “a US dollar stuck in the Lebanese banking system, really just a computer entry with no corresponding currency.” To ‘release their Lollars’ is now a commonly-used expression for the Lebanese population looking for ways to access their own money blocked by banks.
(Lollar logo courtesy of Patrick Chemali)
One of these ways is real estate – an economic sector that was in free fall and suddenly became an interesting option. From one day to the next, real estate companies started posting heavily online and even ventured a little outdoors, notably developer Waterfront City launching a major campaign around “The Only Real Asset Today is Real Estate".
Another was gold and jewelry, to the point that Lebanese jeweler Antoine Saliba launched a campaign around the the investment that a diamond is, instead of the usual Valentine's Day message targeting lovers: “Secure 85% of Your Investment, Invest in Certified Diamonds”.
All in all, brands’ attempts to milk the events mostly ended up in failure, perhaps because of their top-down approach, trying to emulate the market. By contrast, the best work came from independent designers like Dana Osman (who goes by the professional name of Dan), who created an incredible “Currency for the Revolution;” and Mohamad Kaaki, who portrayed the crumbling economy directly on a Lebanese Pound bill – both designers who wanted to express how regular people feel, without a ‘branding opportunity’ in tow.

* An earlier modified version of this story appeared in Communicate Magazine.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Marlboro and Lebanese oranges - the oddest tie-in of all history

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly based on a Marlboro ad
So there, this happened! Marlboro tied itself to the Lebanese oranges as a symbol of "quality and flavor" - I am not inventing this, the original Marlboro ad proves it. This seriously beats all tie-ins in the history of advertising tie-ins!

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Pimo & MTV support Lebanese industry

Pimo and MTV have a new initiative to support the suffocating Lebanese industry (watch the film here), without delving into the mechanics - the ad is actually straightforward (and thanfully avoids the pitfalls of the early trial - see here - and they got rid of that non-functioning line "بالوطني بدعم وطني" which was replaced with "الصناعة بتصنع وطن"). On all accounts, with thousands (literally!) of small, medium and large industries shutting down - without even mentionning the half a thousand HORECA (hotels, restaurants and cafes) which shuttered down - any initiative to support the economy is welcome. Hard times indeed these are!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Le pré - sips of nature

Well, this is a surprise: As far as I know, Le Pré is a new brand in the Lebanese market and I stand corrected if it is not so. But launching a natural juice at this time is nothing but gutsy (do not know if it is natural juice but certainly the packaging and branding both imply upper bracket juice - hence "natural"). With a signature like "sips of nature" as well, this certainly implies a "fancy" brand. Well, whereas limited, the ads show immediately as the absence of other ads in town makes any ad prominent these days! Here's my two cents: With a name like Le Pré, they missed the opportunity to use the classic French expression "le bonheur est dans le pré" - I know what you will say, "this will make it uppity French", but ahem, what language is Le Pré to begin with?

Monday, February 3, 2020

Spinney's tries to do an ad about leap year

There are two ways of looking at Spinney's ad riffing on this leap year....
The first: The copywriting is not really a success (mind you that's a diplomatic understatement).
Let me explain: A leap year in Arabic is "sene kabis" (a pickled cucumber year), and I will try to unsee the word February on the jar in the ad, or the pickled cucumber going in! Then the second slide tries to "rhyme" kabis with "kebsin" (which doubles as "pickling" (cucumbers for example!) and "going pedal to the metal" (n this case "with our offers") - the result: A mess honestly.
Now as I said there is another way to look at it.
The second: Someone is advertising something in Lebanon, this in itself is a rarity!
To be honest I am not really in love wit the ad but hey.... At least it is an ad.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Mohamad Kaaki on the collapse of the Lebanese currency

If this Revolution did anything it is to reveal some epic talents (Dan(a) Osman comes to mind) - and here we have Mohamad Kaaki on the collapse of the Lebanese Lira. The work is not just pertinent and timely but esthetically beautiful as well! Please check Mohamad's instagram page for more.

City Mall capitalizes n the revolution

Well, many other brands did it, so why not City Mall? No, I am not a big fan of such ads. Riding the wave of the revolution and popular anger and repackaging it to sell this and that (from burgers, to furniture to malls....) does not seem logical. But then again, any excuse to seem abreast with events seems good enough to advertisers.
Just to give credit where credit is due, the ad City Mall did for Christmas was exceptional:

Saturday, February 1, 2020

LAU Medical Center - heals with compassion

LAU Medical Center - in case you do not tknow it, it is Rizk hospital in Achrafieh, has a lovely ad right at the entrance of the street that leads to it (simply, it is opposite Chilli's). "Healing with compassion" (the Arabic was thought of in the same line without falling into silly translation and ended up "medicine with humanity"). Now just to be fair the LAU Medical Center puts its mouth where its money is - it started accepting non-insured Lebanese citizens. This alone justifies the content of the ad!

Friday, January 31, 2020

Snips corn cobs - the audacity to advertise

Well there are really incredibly few ads - which makes any ad visible and prominent. So the Snips corn cobs campaign sticks like a sore thumb. Not that it's bad or anything, it even tries to rhyme "corn cob" with "bag" (3ranis bil kys), I think the campaign merits the mention simply for daring to exist: All other advertiers are holdig back their budgets Snips has gone rampant! Oh, and trust me their product is excellent (their peanut curls run out from shelves consistently).

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Antoine Saliba and the diamond investment.

Real Estate? Check (here and here) Home appliances? Check (here) and now diamonds as per Antoine Saliba. All these are pretexts to release your lollars from the bank, to protect your investment and to baically find a way out of the current banking-financial mess. Well, whereas these ideas seemed outrageous in the past, these days if they involve taking the money out of the bank and investing it anyhere else (no matter the depreciation!) suddenly they look logical. Appealing even. The problem with a diamond ring is that usually it brings a wife with it, then a family, so that sort of increases spending.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

On that road to Jerusalem that goes through Jounieh

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
Is there a way to simplify a complicated chequered issue? No there is not.
I personally know the man who used to go to Yasser Arafat and take cash from him in Samsonite bags to fund a local well-known newspaper.
Now that the deal of the century has been announced, to sympathize with the Palestinians is a problem. Not to sympathize with them is another.
How so?
Well, to begin with they made no qualms about wanting Lebanon as an alternative country, and the reason the whole black September happened in Jordan which lead the PLO to be evacuated from there was to stop them from getting Jordan as a supposed alterative country (and here I am divulging two info I got from incredibly well placed person in Jordan: Yasser Arafat was evacuated by wearing a woman's dress and plans for a printed currency and re-allocation of houses in Jordan to Palestinians were already set).
Which brings us back to the expression: "The road to Jerusalem goes through Jounieh" as uttered by Arafat. To begin with, with Jounieh being a northern suburb of Beirut, this is a geographical impossibility - since Jerusalem is to the South. But this implied that they wanted Lebanon - all of it - in lieu of Palestine.
Now here's the flip of the equation: Palestinians have been put in camps in Lebanon ever since the nakba of 1948. Have you visited such a camp? I have. I am - by all means and standards a very thin individual. Yet even I had to walk through certain passages sideways to minmize my body size so small these passages have been. There are areas there which never ever saw the sun and are incredibly humid and damp. Palestinians are not allowed by law to perform many many jobs in Lebanon - the rationale being that they would "settle" if they do. Remember they are here on temporary basis supposedly - all this without remembering that due to shady Lebanese politics, only Christian Palestinians were given Lebanese idendities and were nationalized in a bid to increase the Christian fragment of the population.
As I said there is no way to minimize a very complex issue. And anyone who can tell you where things are going or that there is a gigantic conspiracy theory is in my book, a liar. If history has taught us anything, it's that we have no clue where things are going.
Syrian refugees, may I remind you, are also supposed to be here on temporary basis, just like the Palestinians. All while Lebanese are drowning in their own financial/economic/political problems.
I am not trying to simplify a complex issue, but again - sympathizing with the Palestinians is a problem, not sympathing is another.

Monday, January 27, 2020

IPT seeks to recruit locals. Stereotype alert!

I shall start this post with a flashback - see here and here. Those links go back to Coral Oil - and I was butchered online for the funny joke the Asian worker said though quite late in the game. Actually, the butchering was not about the joke - it was about the Asian worker. How dare I be in favor of an Asian working at the gas station.
Remember when Sukleen got launched a billion years ago? They did that with a cute good looking Lebanese actor and the joke was that he was the only Lebanese working there. Why? Because (oh Tarek you and your stereotypes!) all the people in Sukleen overalls on the ground were Syrians.
The other stereotype? That Egyptians actually work at gas stations (Egyptians do the filling and the Asians are more delegated to the car washing bit).
Which brings us to the IPT ad recruiting Lebanese people on their gas stations "so that our service would be 100% Lebanese".
All right, how about this stereotype? A Lebanese would rather die from hunger than work at a gas station... (... in Lebanon. He could easily do it in any other country where he would pretend to be CEO because no one sees him on the daily job).
This post is full to the brim with stereotypes.
Here's a riddle: Is it still a stereotype when it is actually true?

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Bonjus does the #DollyPartonChallenge

So Bonjus did the #dollypartonchallenge (which is about which photo to put on which social media - linkedin, Facebook, instagram, and Tinder). How could this tie to the core brand message is beyond me. But it's a fad so brands will be on it. Still, I find it odd how much brands are relying on hypes and events as opposed to having a clear message to stick to.

Friday, January 24, 2020

IDM converts customers' payment to Lebanese pound.

Well, here's a nice gesture - IDM is converting client payments to Lebanese Lira. Big deal? Yes. To those living under a rock, Lebanon now has two Dollar exchange rates. The official - the one that comes ftom the Central Bank (1507) and the volatile black market one (please do not be fooled by the 2000 rate that the syndicate of exchangers has fixed - Dan Azzi explains why clearly here). Now, you'll say companies are sheltered from this. Actually not true, because even CEOs have to buy things from shops and each one is behaving differently on the matter so they too - are exposed to a varying price. Which makes this gesture kind of nice to customers.