Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Ksara nails the "buy Lebanese"...

Now that's refreshing! Ksara nails its "buy Lebanese" ad - I am now sure I am in love with the copy (the visual alone is beautiful enough). Why? Because of  the Kataeb throwback undertone (please check here I am not hallucinating!) but the ad is heartwarming indeed! Sadly, with everyone riding on this bandwagon, I am trying to unsee some atrocities (such as this one!) - yet Ksara did it well indeed.

Anti - the feminist party Lebanon needs.

Anti: Logo and naming by Tarek Chemaly
“White people in this country will have quite enough to do in learning how to accept and love themselves and each other, and when they have achieved this—which will not be tomorrow and may well be never—the Negro problem will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed.” James Baldwin
If I am starting this post with a quote by James Baldwin (American author and playwright), it is because if you replace "white" with men and "negro" with women, this in itself would explain why a party like Anti is needed in Lebanon. In short: When men stop hating themselves, the women problem "will no longer exist, for it will no longer be needed."
But first things first: Yes, I am the one who came up with the name, and the logo. Anti is how a female is addressed in the Arabic language and "anti" means "against". So voila! When I came up with it, I was so convinced I came to the Anti people with no other option. Something I had never done in my career prior.
So writing this post makes me biased, but I have always been biased towards women, or minorities (I am not saying women are minorities, please do not twist my words because demographically they stand at 49,6% of the world population, so technically - they're not just equal but superior! How come? Well, to begin with, they get pregnant and we, as men, do not!). But I am digressing here.
Which bring us back to Anti.
A few days back, I posted the logo on my social media - I was not prepared for the storm that ensued. Women were bombarding me with emails about the details (which will come shortly - but since I am not involved in the management aspect I shall leave it to those who are), here is one sample of the exchanges:
"(Lady emailing me):
Ok , but may A certain lady have a leadership role
(Me):
That IS the point!!! For ladies to have the leadership role!
(Lady):
I meant where in the hierarchy
(Me):
Top-down, front and center :)"
Well, as I said I tried not to be involved in details which I did not wish to follow up (such as objectives, plan, etc...) but think about it people. Women are super-competent at multitasking, they can handle household finances much better than men, in managerial roles they work twice as hard for (statistically) 30% less of the pay, and the list goes on. So can you imagine what they can do when there is a framework that is pushing towards more of their employment, so that as they assume more leadership roles, there would be better results, fairer and more humane management, and less corruption?
Now can you see why this is needed in today's Lebanon?
Interestingly a man answered my post saying:
"Let the most qualified take the job, regardless of the gender"
To which I replied:
""Regardless of gender" - interesting only men seem to say that :)"
So why is it that men only say "regardless of gender"? Because women have their genders intrinsicly held against them, as some sort of a curse, or a liability they need to carry in their lives. Only men would say "regardless of their genders" because their gender has been socially on the winning side. Or to quote that Calvin and Hobbes (dated July 29, 1991 by Bill Watterson) comic strip when Calvin's father tells him "the world isn't fair Calvin": "I know, but why isn't it ever unfair in my favor?"
Except that, instead of talking about a six-year-old boy, we are speaking about women at large. Who are in a world that is not "unfair in their favor" - hence: Anti.

Partial exclusive results from the Epica Awards!


And here, dear readers a partial list of the Epica winners - deliberations are happening in Amsterdam,  and it is a gruelling task I tell you. As an Epica jury member here are some exclusives to you!

Results after two days of judging
Overall the country with the most winners is France with 85 awards including 12 Golds. The second most successful country is Germany with 71 awards, including 22 Golds.
The most successful network is McCann Worldgroup with 52 awards including 17 Golds, followed by BBDO and DDB who each won 43 awards. So far, BBDO has won 9 Golds and DDB has won 3 Golds.
At the agency level, the standout name is Ruf Lanz from Zurich with 18 winning entries, but with no Gold. Another agency outperformer is BBDO New York with 15 awards including 3 Golds.

Highlights of the day
The jury in Amsterdam has reviewed hundreds of submissions. Here are some striking observations from today’s jury meeting:

ICONOCLAST: "In the Long Run” for Mercedes-Benz
An entry that got rewarded in many Epica categories was "In the Long Run” from Mercedes-Benz. The Epica jury was impressed that the campaign film went much further than standard car movies: it tells a moving family story with a twist. The Epica jury has rewarded it with Gold in the categories Copywriting & Storytelling, Luxury & Premium Brands, Direction & Cinematography and Best Use of Music.

Absence of Gold in many Print categories
The Epica jury was critical about the level of the Print work submitted in categories like Luxury & Premium Brands, Public Interest: Environment, Recreation & Leisure, Health & Beauty, Food and Transport & Tourism. The Epica jury usually loves Print and will have a hard time deciding on a print Grand Prix tomorrow. If any ….

MullenLowe Thailand: “Termite-ator” for Chaindrite Foam
Although judging creative work is a very serious business, some of the submitted work also triggered smiling faces in the jury room. In an elaborate dramatization of the product’s efficacy, the film "Termite-ator" depicted termites as larger than life villains to bring tricky and persistent termite problems to life. The Epica jury considered the film not only a good laugh, but also awarded it with Gold in the category Household Maintenance – Film.

A small Tarek take on this:
At Epica, dissent is rather encouraged. We all come from different backgrounds and sensitivities. But this year and judging by the results I am indeed in agreement - the print category offers no "Brad is single" as was the case in 2016 (a standout winner which immediately popped to my eyes), however whereas I really liked the "In the Long run" film my vote this year goes to the other Mercedes film... the "Bertha Benz" which already won gold in the automotive category and to which I am cheering as Grand Prix winner.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Regarding those "buy Lebanese" campaigns....

Remember that corny campaign about encouraging Lebanese industry? If you do not so much the better. Naturally, with brands still not knowing if they should put ads or not (read here), they are at least now speaking to the Lebanese saying "buy Lebanese, save our production industries, and don't let us close and let go of our employees". I am sure there are many examples, those above are by Cosmaline and Kritita nuts as they appeared on Instagram. Cosmaline went and did a full ad which is copywrited so that it implies what is happening in Lebanon right now (see here) which sadly makes it lowest-common-denominator in terms of stirring emotions (and I think kind of forgettable in the future).

Monday, November 18, 2019

A time to grieve: Thoughts on Alaa Abou Fakhr

Ghayath al-Rawbeh and Alaa Abou Fakhr mural - Ibrahim Chalhoub/AFP
"To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: [...] A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance." Ecclessiastes 3:4 - some of you might enjoy it as a song by The Byrds. I feel sad for the family of Alaa Abou Fakhr "martyr of the revolution" as he is being dubbed. The man died on October 14, being hit by a bullet as he tried to block the road to stop a military car from crossing. If he was acting as a member of the Progressive Socialist Party or as a solo element is - at this stage - irrelevant. His death became an emblem of all the things happening in Lebanon. Murals representing him popped up all over the place, his name now used and abused.
Not only was he a young man, but also a father (he died right in front of his eldest child), but he died tragically, with no prior warning. If this is not a trauma to his family then I wonder what is. Well, I know everyone tells you about the five stages of grief, that is the theoretical element. In practise, each person grieves differently.
The problem is? His funeral turned into a spectacle, the words of his young widow broadcasted on all TV screens, his son - the same one who saw him die - turned into the symbol of the "next-generation-for-whom-his-dad-died-valiantly", and the dead man himself was emptied of anything that he was (or was not) and his name now simply became "chahid el thawra" (as I said earlier "martyr of the revolution").
And I truly feel sad that his loved ones were robbed from (and denied of) their right to grieve him, personally, privately. He became everyone's "chahid" (martyr) whereas technically, he was a "fakid" (deceased). A chahid is a public property to a community in Arabic, a fakid is a dead person missed by his family. 
The reason I feel sad is that death is a process to those who experience it, not just an event. When my own father passed away, and considering he usually took a small nap prior to lunch as a habit, several days after the funeral, my mother asks me "do you want to have lunch?" to which I reply, "yes, let me just wake father to join us". So here I was, sky high IQ, a bunch of diplomas from several universities, but "forgetting" my father had passed away. 
That everyone was now milking Abou Fakhr's death is borderline pathetic. Whereas my own father was rather old, died in his own bed, surrounded by his family, Alaa Abou Fakhr was anything but those things. His death must be incredibly traumatic to his family, and yet, no one is giving them time and space to mourn him, to process his death. It has been now hijacked from them. Sharing grief with a nation, does not dilute one's own - just ask Jackie Kennedy Onasis.
And all those people now claiming him as their own, when - under normal circumstances no one would know him or care about his existence while he was alive - is, a best "strange" and at worst "evil".
I just saw a video on Instagram headlined "family of Alaa Abou Fakhr comes to Martyr's square" - the usual manifestation space which has been occupied since October 17. I don't know about them, but I got a hunch they'd rather be holed up in their home trying to gather meaning and solace for losing their loved one.
One day, and quite soon, cameras will stop rolling and his family will be confronted with silence and the much delayed process of grief will start for them. When that time comes, I wish them courage and strength.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

And what if Instagram was right about hiding likes?

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
It seems the new instagram update did not reach me yet but it reached a teenager I know - meaning he is now incapable of seeing the number of "Likes" on people's posts. OK I am going to post the exchange with him as it occurred:
"aal insta meche le update ma ba2a had ychouff ade sar aande likes. wouww!"
(The new update is working on insta(gram) no one can see how many like I got. wouww!)
Notice what happened? Whereas Instagram did the update to stop people looking at the photos others are looking at, a side effect has materialized: People such as that teenager now no longer see it as a "competition" to get more like since anyhow, no one is going to see the said likes! Suddenly, all the pressure is off. What is the point competing when no one is "timing your lap!" - yes, yes, I realize my sample is composed of one person, but somehow I feel joy for this to be a side-result of that new Instagram policy.
He would often ask why a silly picture got so many likes, and I would explain "this was posted by a girl. Photos posted by girls get more likes" or "why does this boy got two thousand followers when he only posted three times" and I would explain that most likely he bought those followers. As Instagram changed its algorithms so that photos would be less exposed he felt he was not "popular" enough lately (naturally teenagers seek validation that way!).
"Only you can see the total number of people who liked your post" (this is what the screenshot the boy took said). Somehow by abolishing that "number of people", it seems Instagram re-instated the joys of posting photos for many people.
With much much less pressure of comparing and competing!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

President Michel Aoun: on communication and Vaseline

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
Anyone who was surprised our president Michel Aoun uttered the words “If people aren’t satisfied with any of the decent leaders let them immigrate,” perhaps their vision and version of the president is erroneous.
But let us start with an event that dates back exactly 30 years ago in 1989 when our president was then the head of the military government which per the constitution had to rule after the incapacity to elect a president to follow Amine el Gemayel (in what was known as the "Cognac night" because the power handover was done drinking this liquor which was the only one available at the Baabda Palace that night). So during an infamous press conference, live on television, Aoun says (about the later Member of the Parliament Georges Saade who was representing the Kataeb party) "chou Georges Saade 3am bi 7ot Vaseline ta y2ate3 khwezi2?" (what, Georges Saade is putting Vaseline to better insert d*icks?). Yes, it was live and on television at around 5 P.M. when kids were watching.
Let us also go back to an incident that happened in our school in 1991. As we were taking a French lession with our incredibly witty teacher Mr. Rouhana, suddenly a huge "bammmmm!" is heard. Naturally, since the sound was milder than an explosion (remember it was immediately post-war!) and much harsher than someone dropping a book, all teachers went to investigate. It turned out that a father had just slapped (quite, quite violently) the "prefet" or head of the section. Apparently the said prefet had just told the man "Monsieur, ibnak habile" (Sir, your son is stupid).
So upon returning to class, Mr. Rouhana said, "well, this was not in today's lesson but let me teach you about euphemism, you do not tell a father "Sir, your son is stupid" but rather "Sir, maybe your son is not extremely smart" - this goes down better".
Fortunately for Aoun people forgot about his "Vaseline" and "d*cks" quote, though I am not sure about history being as kind to him about his "immigration" quote today. Then again, to quote pop philosophers Bananarama "it ain't what you do it's the way you do it"...

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Ahmad Naji Fares right bang on (Casserole) target.

So lately there was a manifestation where everyone banged on casseroles (specifically in front of politicians' homes). "Da2 3al tanajer" is an Arabic expression that means "banging on casseroles" and which translates into bad music or annoying sound. ANF (Ahmad Naji Fares) the shop that sells housewares jumped on the bandwagon and gave us "the original can be recognized from its sound"... Beat that! Wit and humor in spades (no they do not sell spades!).

There seems to be no new ads in town.

Au Vieux Quartier - old ad from circa 1975-6

Halloween came and went without a sound, independence day is around the corner (this should witness a flurry of online action this year), and blimey - wink and Christmas and end of year around the corner. Yet - there seems to be no new ads in town. "Ma 7ada elo nafs" a (trendy) shop owner told me (no one is in the mood).
And then there's the other problem: How would one pay for agencies? A small online agency I know has a crippling 45,000 USD it is not able to withdraw from clients in the market and that's just a small nimble 3-4 people outfit. Larger ones? As one ad agency owner once told me: "Tarek, the interest I am owed - the interest, not the principal - would cover us had you been standing on my shoulders" and this statement is already several years old.
I surveyed a section of the market in a certain region (and I stand corrected) - the billboards still hold the same ads which were put on the week of October 14 (considering the social movement we see in Lebanon started on October 17 and that campaigns tend to start being posted on Mondays, you do the math!).
So - now what?
I argued prior that people need to dream, need a semblance of normality. Yes, I understand the country is frozen on so many levels - financial, political and all that, and that with the banks still not opening or rationing money (the latest is that I had to stand 25 minutes to get my turn in front of an ATM only to discover that the maximum I was able to withdraw was 100,000 Lebanese Pounds - and naturally no USD in sight in the machine).
But still - brands are stuck now: G. Vincenti & Sons (one of the biggest importers of Fast Moving Consumer Goods brands in Lebanon) issued a statement saying they did not raise their prices (following the Dollar debacle), others (such as the ABC Mall said they were going on 30% sale for 5 days - again through a shy instagram post), Adidas and Reebock ditto. So I assume online presence (through direct ad buying on Facebook or Instagram) is being the small toe-dipping brands are using to see where they stand. It is cheap and it announces sales conveniently.
But still - where do you we go from here?


Monday, November 11, 2019

The many Lebanons manifesting

Composite graffiti image "Thawra" (revolution) by Tarek Chemaly
"So Tarek, shall we meet? Thawra*? Coffee?" *revolution in Arabic. So came the message of an Lebanese artist who just came back from an international tour. Well, so the revolution is now a social event it seems. A reminder of my pun slogan "metro - manif - dodo" a riff on the original "metro - boulot - dodo" with manif short of manifestation (which I coined for the events in 2005) or the joke "what ar you doing tonight?" with the answer being "dari7, cine" (dari7 means the tomb - in that case of Rafic Hariri in downtown Beirut).
OK nothing against social events I assure you (I mean not for me, for other people. Am too introverted!). This does not take out the original "poitical" meaning. The two can cohabtitate together, and trust me, what's better than "crowd sings baby shark to appease toddler" or "couple marries among the Beiruti protesting crowd" or "DJ hypes protests in Tripoli" titles on international sites to make the events news worthy.
Now, let it be known - I don't know who is protesting. I heard "non-religious youth wanting a better Lebanon" or variations of this sentence. Problem is, the four times I heard it, it came from people in the liberal-art-marketing-BCBG (bon chic bon genre) people who come from relatively at ease economic strata , so my sample is biased on this one. There are also the leftists - and those too are artistically inclined (designers, artists, actors...) who I follow on Instagram and who post regularly about their activities there.
But there are also the de facto leftists, those who actually come from marginalized or disenfranchised classes. People forget or disregard how much economic disparity between classes actually helped ignite the events in 1975 which culminated in the all out war. I remember what someone in the Lebanese Communist Party told me in an interview: "All I wanted was enough fare to pay a "service" (shared taxi) - not to participate in the upscale events, but to see then from afar".
Naturally, like in every revolution or upheaval - there are the dreamers or idealists who want a far fetched goal such as "bring the system down" or something like that. And these abound in Lebanon.
Interestingly, the events at large still lack a centralized mouthpiece. And truth be told, they lasted more than anyone had expected them to. And whereas they held out in the rain, a blissful autumnish weather came in handy to them. I admit that there are images showing diminishing crowd numbers in Beirut, but the traction is still there as the manifesting people changed tactics by targeting government institutions on rotation.
All this reminds me of the movie the commitments whose slogan was "they had nothing but they were willing to risk it all". I truly feel to many people this is a last ditch effort to "dream" or "aspire" a little...
Now all this is divorced from the decision-making political spheres it seems, or more abruptly from the deepening financial crisis which we seem to be running into. At a fast speed.
So who else is manifesting? I am not sure. People who "used to believe in political parties" (and who re-re-elected them last year in the parliamental elections)? I find that had to believe. But I am told they are there. What that means in practise eludes me actually.
Lebanon has always been a "pays a deux vitesses" (a country at two speeds), no - make that 5 speeds! Some people I know (such as my friend Farid Chehab) think this is its strength. All these multitude of people coming from different places and backgrounds in such close geographical proximity. Some others think it its doom as this is like putting an exploding mixture and waiting for it to blow.
And blow it did. But not in the way it was expected.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Lama Assaf and Lama Bawadi come up with exceptional upside down copy

Prior to the revolution:
"We are different sects and religions
But we refuse the idea that
We did a revlution to be in a civic fair state
Tomorrow history will be a witness that
Sect
Is more important than
Country
No matter what
The leader is a god
We will not be convinced that
Our leaders and our bosses have wronged their people and their country"
After the revolution (read from bottom to top!)

The above is an excellent sample of copywriting... As someone who adores words I tip my hat to Lama Assaf and Lama Bawadi.
The small tiny problem is that the upside down technique was used prior - by Lopez Murphy in his presidential campaign in 2003 and then was "borrowed" (ahem!) for 14 March. Don't believe me? Look below!

Banque Audi picks the worst time to advertise its alternative services.

Well, Bank Audi hits all wrong notes in this ad. "Your convenience is of importance to us" - no kidding!!! They close for days upon days, use every excuse in the book to stop people withdrawing money (amid unconfirmed reports that large depositors' money was being smuggled outside the country in that time), and now they want consumers to use anything but the branches themselves! ITM, Smart ATM (which is now under capital control and only withdraws limited amounts) and the mobile app. Seriously - this could be the wrongest time to put such an ad to people who are now fed up with the banking system! (Side note - unless there is a decree about capital controls they are technically illegal!).

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Pepsi "chraba redda" from analog to digital

"From the tape (cassette) days to the days of online (streaming)" - so goes the new Pepsi "chraba redda" (litterally drink it and bring it back) or the returnable bottle still at 250 Lebanese Pounds (I am not converting to USD as the currently is blown to pieces but suffice to say it is quite cheap!). Now, I totally dig the layout in the ad despite the use of that prepackaged "handwriting" typography. But the ad has this nostalgia infused in it.
Small note, when I saw this ad another one popped up to mind, the Big Mac 50 years poster:
Mixtape to playlist - wink!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

LADR is right - diabetes is serious

In early 2013 I was diagnosed with diabetes. At that time I could barely see with my left eye and the right one was tearful during all waking hours, I shed a lot of weight which considering I originally was not fat, made me look incredibly sickly. For the next 5 years my indicators would go down one test then go over the roof in the second, several months on end my skin turned beige (not - not tanned, or bronzed or what-not, but Pentone beige). After changing doctors and meds in late 2017, thankfully my numbers are now pretty clean (or as clean as they can rationally be for someone diabetic!). Still, I need to follow a strict regimen in terms of eating, excercise, medicine, etc... All this is to say that LADR is correct - diabetes is incredibly serious. And I want to thank them for this campaign!

So - should brands resume normal advertising in Lebanon?

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
With manifestations still gripping Lebanon - with some saying they are still in full swing while others claiming they diminished in intensity - a question now arises to all advertisers and marketing departments: With the festive season approaching quickly, marking a climax in the ad spend (usually, that is - I am disregarding how weak the Lebanese market is!), the big question mark is - when is it appropriate to advertise again?
On the plus side, ad agencies, and many jobs, be they in the marketing, creative and client side depend on this. Not to mention the work involved in retail, sale, and on the ground. As I said the economy is already too frail, so spending the remainders of the marketing budget would be a serious blow to agencies (and here I am including multinationals) hanging by a thread.
On the downside, there will be serious echoes about: Who cares about brands and ads at a time like this? If they use the "business as usual" they will be accused of sidelining what is happening in the streets ad being tone-deaf to the market. Or worse, if they ride the coattail of the events they will be accused of capitalizing on them and devoiding them of their original rightful tone of voice (it already happened on Instagram where brands were eviscerated because they made the events about them).
The issue is, with schools still closed, with businesses already closing en masse due to several economic factors, with the roads open or closed on either the whims of the people manifesting or as being whispered on that of unseen political parties backing or puppeteering them, what people need is to hang on to that idea that beyond the current events (and here I am not commenting on them) there is a pastiche of life that still exists. For kids to dream of presents, for teenagers and youth to dream about a New Year's eve date, or - as it was the custom in earlier years - for traveling/immigrating members of families to drop by for the festivities from abroad for an interlude or respite and to eat again mom or teta's food.
Put simply: What the country needs more than ever is a semblance of normality.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Marita Merheb and Alissar Nakad shine in their Adidas radio ads!

How about this for creativity!
USEK students while learning the craft of writing for advertising in my course, came up in a 2 hours and a half session with mind-blowing results. Take the case of Marita Merheb and Alissar Nakad who were doing radio ads for Adidas. Their original brief was simply - how to advertise Adidas without sounding cheap all while winking to the events. After an initial brainstorming the girls came up with the concept of "balls" with which many sports are played (hence Adidas) and the other balls (hence Lebanon). And whereas the brief was 30 seconds, they decided to split it into two 15 seconds ads. Honestly, it was beyond surreal!

Version 1: Adidas/15 seconds
Multitasking mothers have the biggest balls.
7 year old girls who stand up to 70 year old politicians have balls.
Women who kick bodyguards in the groin, have solid balls.
Have the balls to stand you ground, to play the game by your own rules.
Adidas, impossible is nothing.

Version 2: Adidas/15 seconds
Running from thugs in the street.
Doing open-air yoga on the bridge.
Swimming in an inflatable pool in the middle of the highway.
Some sports do not need balls, they require them.
Have the balls to stand you ground, to play the game by your own rules.
Adidas, impossible is nothing.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Annahar goes feminine/feminist

In today's Annahar, the front page went from Annahar (the day) to Naharouki (your day - when addressing a female). The text is a print of the national anthem with the words "a land that gives birth to men" twisted into "a land that gives birth to women and women". Annahar - through its Naya initiative has been championing women's issue (how efficient this on the ground is another story), but one can only respect the effort being made.

The zero-sum game or the mutually assured destruction

What stopped the nuclear war from happening was the MAD theory (Mutually Assured Destruction) whereby anyone who starts that war is bound to be annihilated (the tic tac toe scene in the movie War Games is a super example of that). The zero-sum game is easy: Your loss is a compensated by someone else's win.
Which basically begs the question - who won, who lost, and is the annihilation of one party an annihilation to all in Lebanon? Anyone, and I mean anyone, who can pretend to see clearly in the current Lebanese fog is at best guessing, at worst lying, or in the middle spin doctoring.
Indeed, all parties made it look that the resignation of Prime Minister Hariri and ergo the government at large (fun fact - the current government becomes a caretaker government so nothing changes till a new one is formed) has been painted as a win from all parties: The people on the street, the Free Patriotic Movement and its allies, Hariri himself, other political entities. Which begs the question: If everyone won, where's the catch?
Color me confused.
So what happens now to the movements on the streets? Are they still "innocent" or are they supported by political parties (as many say they are)? What happens with the government formation and that huge amount of cash we need to pay for the interest for the money we got loaned (which is supposedly to the tune of 2,8 Billion Dollars - the interest that is!)? How fast can we form a new government and what shape would it take? When will the roads be opened and business resume servce? When will schools and universities resume their schedules? Banks will open tomorrow, but will there be "capital controls" despite assurances of the contrary (and these controls already started happening by the way!)?
Worse still: Do any of these questions matter?
None of these questions seem to have enough weight on the radar, or any priority in solving them. The government formation seems to be a vicious circle: Parties do not want to negotiate its formation while people are still in the streets and people on the streets do not want to retract until a new government sees the light.
It seems the fog is as thick as it was on that chilly night in Kalmar, Sweden, when I could barely see in front of me until by instinct I stopped walking suddenly only for a parked six-wheeler to materialize in front of me. I feel everyone is strolling in Kalmar on an extremely foggy night.
In the meantime, anyone wants to play tic tac toe?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A week is a long time in politics - Harold Wilson

Source
Harold Wilson - a British Politician - said: "a week is a long time in politics", and in Lebanon time is elastic - every day seems to bring in several developments (just today, resignation of the prime minister, attack on the manifestants and burning of their tents) but decades pass and nothing changes.
Look at the archive of any newspaper - allegations of theft, of corruption or bad politicians (with proofs and documents in tow!) and yet, little seems to change.
I am not here to dampen people's will or determination or dreams or (rightful) aspirations, but I have been here long enough to see thugs beat people under any pretext which can come to mind (as it happened today). You may say "brainwashed" or "ignorant" they are - yes, but they do exist. In the same country and space and city as all the others who are "free-minded" and "educated" (both terms here too used relatively).
In Einstein's relativity theory - time is diluted, but this pesupposes two clocks "either due to them having a velocity relative to each other, or by there being a gravitational potential difference between their locations", in Lebanon you do not need any such differences. Time gets diluted because it seems people in the same space, geography, and gravitational potential seem to measure it differently.
Some are erupting on Twitter calling Gebran Bassil (the man who was the subject of most of the ire and curses at the manifestations) as "former minister", others are erupting of joy saying it is now his time to form the government he always wanted with his allies. Same event different readings. I always go back to what the New York Times Bill Farrell said "there's no truth in Beirut, only versions" - on all accounts what happened since the beginning of the Lebanese revolution (October 17) is a lot. But that's because... A week is a long time in politics yet decades seem to bring little change!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Dan(a) Osman and fitting currency for the Lebanese current crisis!

Dana Osman (nicknamed Dan) has issued some stunning "curency" in the wake of what is happening in Lebanon, I could speak drove about them but why not let her do the talking (I reached out to her and this is her take:
"The dollar which has been scaring us for the past weeks, features American historical figures which insured the independence and wellbeing of their country. My currency also features Lebanese icons who are fighting for the real independence of our country, independence from corruption. Moreover, the currency is one inspired from the suffering of my people, the same suffering that has been funding and fueling our revolution."

Forget those Fadlo Khuri antics, I still love AUB

 
 

Let's admit it - this did not go down well. It seems the president of the American University of Beiut, Dr. Fadlo Khuri has tried to meddle with the manifestations trying to become the mouthpiece of the people on the streets, and - from what I read in the newspapers - proposing to become a member of the supposedly new upcoming "technocrat" government. As I said, this did not go down well.
Twitter was ablaze with jokes and the tag #الحراك_تأذى_بفضلو was trending. The joke is that the name Fadlo when added the letter "b" means "because of", so the tag is "the movement is worse of because of Fadlo" - well, no one can accuse activists of not being witty.
I was an AUB student between 1992 and graduated in 1996. I am not inventing gun powder saying university years are some of the most formative, and the AUB years - without doubt - were some to me. Yes, sure, with time all the "information" you learned is now free on Google - but university gives you not just information but also "knowledge" - or how to connect information to lead to better results.
That I went to AUB was a litte miracle. Remember, it was 1992, I was supposed to find a university closer to home (i.e. "Eastern" Beirut), our financial situation was such that we could only afford the first semester tuition only. Yet, with financial aid with usually used to average around 42-43% in my case, and which I got four years in a row, and added to it that system (which is sadly now gone) that anything you take above 12 credits is free of charge, plus two simultanuous student jobs allowed me to get through with as minimum finacial liability as possible.
Oh, and it all built character too.
I am not going to go at length about my AUB adventures, and I am not even part of the Alumni of the university (one needs to register apparently), and I do not even attend reunions or what not - not out of spite or gripe but life catches up eventually with obligations and priorities.
Still, I remember the AUB anthem whose chorus ends with "AUB in thee we glory; Make us true and brave."
Well, you don't get such a blog without being true and brave.
So forget those Fadlo Khuri antics, I still love AUB.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Audi - every revolution starts in the streets

"Every revolution starts in the streets" - so says this majestic Audi ad which believe it or not, dates back to 1989. As the situation in Lebanon is still fragile and can go in any possible way, and as brands try to ride bandwagons, this ad from my archive says "this is how we do it!". 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Bel Mersad comes up with impeccable copy for the revolution in Lebanon

Regardless of where I stand or rather do not stand politically, I am not immune to good copy - and this is an incredibly good sample! Brought to us by bel.mersad (the instagram account of some copy-design savvy protesters - cough, ahem), the sample is a brilliant communication exercise. No matter what the revolution brings or does not bring, at least we will cherish the design aspect (in my case the copy)!
Bel Mersad just explained to me that these slogans were picked up from manifestations which makes them more special as they come from the people themselves! I always appreciated home-gown copywriting!

With regards to financing the revolution

Another day another new hashtag when it comes to the protests in Lebanon. This one is #انا_ممول_الثورة (I am financinng the revolution) with an "indie" style ad about people saying that sentence (I am a Lebanese citizen - and everyone repeats "I am financinng the revolution"). All this certainly to counter the claims that someone is actually orchestrating/paying for this from deep pockets and to prove that is a movement guided and born from the people. With that many competing hashtags, I am wondering why there are too many messages tiptoeing on each other's feet... I understand the rationale they come from but at some point they are not driving a unified cohesive whole.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Lebanon, manifestations, and red lines.

Well, another day, another hashtag. No wait, a full blown ad with copy, creative, cast, concept, and voice over! I am assuming all this was done pro bono because if any financing was done, I would want to know the source of the money. Now, the new hashtag is #انا_خط_احمر (I_am_a_red_line). The idea - translated literally with people painting red lines (be it with graffiti or paint) on themselves. The concept rotates around the idea that whereas leaders are interchangeable, people are not. Next time I will hear anyone say "bil rou7 bi damm nafdika ya...." (with our soul with our blood we sacrifice ourselves to you) which is a popular chant people use during political rallies, I will remind people who owns their blood. Sarcasm aside, it is interesting such an ad was done and - predictably under the circumstances - was unsigned. Please do see it here!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Palau Pledge / Palau Legacy Project wins the Care Awards Grand Prix.

A total of 10 campaigns from 9 countries are awarded by the 2019 Jury of Care Awards in light of their excellence in promoting care for people and the environment.
This year’s Grand Prix went to Host/Havas’s campaign: Palau Pledge / Palau Legacy Project. Nine other campaigns received a Care Award and a special "Coup de Coeur" went to "#SpeedTalk" by Happiness Brussels for OVK and "The Last Makeup" by Havas Tribu for Avon.
In the category Corporate Social Responsibility 5 campaigns were awarded :
Autism can work - Serviceplan France - Andros
DO Black - RBK Communication - Doconomy
Plastic Fish - Piece Of Cake Advertising - Centro de Recursos del Agua
The Last Makeup - Havas Tribu – Avon
Trash Isles - AMV BBDO - LADbible & Plastic Oceans Foundation
In the category Non-profit Organizations and Non-Governmental Bodies 3 campaigns were awarded :
#SpeedTalk - Happiness Brussels - OVK
Destination Pride - FCB/SIX - PFLAG Canada
Stamps - BBDO Dublin - Dublin Simon Community
In the category Local & Governmental Bodies 2 campaigns were awarded :
Behind the wheel, cell phones can kill - la chose - La Sécurité Routière
Palau Pledge - Host/Havas - Palau Legacy Project

Note: The Care Awards do not use a ranking scale. So there’s no first or second or third, it is about which campaign deserves a Care Award. It’s all about merit.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Advertising industry in Lebanon is praying for anticipated elections.

Intikhabat/Inti7abat (elections/desolations) - Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
The advertising industry in Lebanon is praying for anticipated parliamentary elections. Actually in 2018, election ads is the only thing that stopped companies from literally going bankrupt (you might enjoy the prizes I dispatched!).
Now, with all the protests and the brouhaha in the streets you might tell me that newer candidates might not have the money to launch such incredible campaigns in volume and scale. But that's because, to begin with, I am not referring to newer canditates but to entrenched old parties.
Take the Kataeb, they built their last campaign on the "change" slogan which they nicked from the Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces wanted also new rules (with their "sar badda" - now is the time - slogan) before joining the government and then withdrawing from it. Ergo - hypocrisy all the way and it all applies to all parties.
If you did  not see Toni Frangieh's wedding (in September 2019), son of Suleiman head of the Marada Party, you might think the entirety of the north Lebanon is currently in the streets. Basically, everyone was invited. And everyone showed up.
Lebanon could easily be the only society in the world that has the proverb "the hand that you cannot break, kiss it and wish for it to be broken". Do note, I am not saying "slavery is a choice" a la Kanye West, but more like - everyone is benifiting from this pseudo-feudal system established in Lebanon.
I wrote this previously:
"I admit, I was very idealistic as I was growing, but even then, I used to argue that what was wrong was not the governance but people themselves. For a long time, I used to consult with Dr. Paul Salem at the LCPS (Lebanese Center for Policy Studies - he is currently with the Middle East Institute up to my knowledge) and a remarkable man. However, he believed that if we changed governance this goes into domino effect on the people.
When he left LCPS, he went to head the Issam Fares Foundation. By pure chance we met a couple of months later, and after effusive hellos, he said "you know Tarek, you were right". Puzzled I asked what about - and he explained that yes, the original issue was with people, and that he found out they were using wastas (clientage system) to get what was theirs to begin with by simply filling a couple of papers."
One of the main reasons the Arab Spring failed is their inability to produce electable candidates. Lebanon, I argue, has the same issue. And please, do not tell me "Beirut Madinati" (which established itself as hip anti-establishemet list) or independent candidates - and here I am measuring my words: In their Beirut municipal elections, the Beirut Madinati list copied the Rafic Hariri program issued for the 1996 municipal elections almost word per word (yes, I am that old to remember, and yes, I am putting my reputation at stake for saying this).
Again to be clear - what happened last year (or any year for that matter regarding political "advertising" in Lebanon) is not actually advertising. Why?
Because any advertising has three functions:
1 - To introduce a product
2 - To inform about its availability in the "market"
3 - To sway the target audience to get the product
You may apply this from FMCG to politicians it works all the way. Except that in Lebanon, political parties talk only to the people who "already" believe in their cause - just look at these Kataeb samples to prove my point!
So if they are not advertisements, what are they?
I know not - but I know that advertising agencies are already praying that anticipated elections happen! In these dire economic times, selling false hopes lines their pockets with money.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Lebanese economists' recommendations (following protests)

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
The Lebanese economy is going through a serious crisis that has placed the country at a historic crossroads, as the economic and political foundations of the rentier pattern prevalent since the 1990s have disintegrated, with the ruling powers unable to find any viable alternative. In the face of this stalemate, the undersigned economists believe that there is no alternative to putting forward an economic vision that establishes a new economic model that not only solves the current crisis - the simultaneous large trade and current deficits, fading growth rates, high unemployment and declining external financial flows - but also builds a new economy that secures development. Development and social justice.

In this context, economists put forward the following measures:

First, a radical change in the foundations of the Lebanese economy and its transformation from a rentier economy that destroys the environment and benefits the few to a balanced and sustainable productive economy that responds to the interests of the majority in all regions of Lebanon. This requires measures to divert resources from rent and monopolistic practices to competitive production through a modern tax system and public investment in infrastructure that supports high-productivity and export sectors, particularly the electricity and telecommunications sector.

Second, a radical and just tax reform provides new resources for building a modern state and reduces the deficit and the accumulation of public debt that the few who invest in debt instruments benefit. The basis of this new tax system is the adoption of progressive and raising taxes on the dividends of profits and rents and benefits and the introduction of a tax on wealth and increase rates of taxation on the inheritance of great wealth.

Third, work to solve the problem of public debt and accumulation and remove the specter from the Lebanese economy and future generations, through the conversion of the Central Bank of Lebanese treasury bonds owned by low-interest bonds, and through negotiation with commercial banks holding a large part of the public debt to reduce interest on bonds And to recover public funds transferred to them through successive financial engineering by subjecting them to an exceptional tax.

Fourth, uphold the dismantling of the monopoly blocs controlling the markets of food, hydrocarbons, medicine, cement, flour and others, which are hiding behind the guise of exclusive agencies, and are greatly supported by powerful forces within the Authority.

Fifth, the establishment of a new and advanced industrial policy in order to support the establishment of a productive economy, transfer of technology and the alignment of the Lebanese economy with the scientific development and high level of skills of the Lebanese youth, thus stimulating the increase of productivity, wages and growth rates and promote the withdrawal of the effects of industrial development on other economic sectors.

Sixth, to build a social welfare state that embodies the right of the Lebanese to science, medicine, hospitalization, housing, retirement and environmental protection, as well as developing programs to eradicate poverty and marginalization, which afflicts more than 30 percent of the Lebanese.

As Lebanese economists begin to disengage from the sectarian leadership, the time has come and there is a historic opportunity for radical reforms and changes in the structure of the Lebanese economy to cross into a new, productive, modern and sustainable economy befitting 21st century Lebanon and providing decent jobs. The well-being and progress of the majority and not of the few.

Signatories

Lydia Aswad - Kamal Hamdan - Albert Dagher - Ghassan Dibeh - Mohammed Zbib - Jad Shaban - Amin Saleh - Sami Atallah - George Qorm - Dan Azzi - Mofeed Qtish - Dima Karim

Some photos from the Beirut manifestations!

Photo credit - Tarek Chemaly
Ah look at the super photos I took from the Beirut manifestations!
Like them?
Great, because they were taken in 2005. When the first manifestations happened following the assassination of Rafik Hariri.
I keep hearing how these new ones are "different", how these ones work because they are leaderless, how politicians did not hijack these (yet? who knows!), how these are purer because they express what "all" the "Lebanese" (as a vague entity!) want, how these can bring "real" change, how those in 2005 actually worked because they did manage to get the Syrians out (as if it was their sole purpose! which it was not!).... And the list goes on and on....
I speculated prior that perhaps people on the streets do not know what they want but know what they do not want, and that their demands verge towards the absurd (there are newer lists of demands at this stage though, with more or less the same ideas), and I was said to be "devoid of hope", "fatidic", "negative" and a "pessimist".
There is a change.org petition circulating about "removing banking secrecy from the accounts of all the Lebanese in Swiss banks" - yep, that should bring the "optimist" in me considering how 1) some Lebanese happen to live and work in Switzerland 2) some Lebanese have legitimate businesses there 3) it is practically impossible to do it as it needs to be approved by banks, and by the Swiss state. This should tell you the level of seriousness we are dealing with - actually, the fact that tens of thousands of people already signed should be an even bigger and scarier indicator.
I keep hearing talks about a "technocrat" government (which I previously called technocrap), but all these talks seem to happen in the void or - again - as I said earlier they imply all politicians except the one people follow which would bring us to the same vicious circle logic, although there is a slogan #كلن_يعني_كلن - everyone means everyone - I got serious doubts this applies to the mind of people who really have a liking to a specific party/politician.
I tend to think people really underestimate the void that would happen should the government resign, the effect this would have on the frail economy as it is. How easy it is do you think to get another govenment formed? How fast? How efficient it would be? Already the "famous" economic paper issued by the government seems not to have pleased people protesting who seem - to quote the Queen song - that "(they) want it all, and (they) want it now".
Which bring us back to what they want, to begin with.
So this is exactly the kind of damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.
But hey, I decided, after speaking to several people, some incredibly connected, some less so, that basically, I am not going to stand in anyone's way. A big change is coming? A new government? A new system? A whole new shebang? Super! Call me when you're finished.

Monday, October 21, 2019

In 1870 this is what W.M. Thomson said about Lebanon.

Lebanon 1870 - artwork by Tarek Chemaly
"Lebanon has about 400,000 inhabitants, gathered into more than six hundred towns, villages and hamlets. The various religions and sects live together, and practice their conflicting superstitions in close proximity, but the people do not coalesce into one homogeneous community, nor do they regard each other with fraternal feelings.The Sunnites excommunicate the Shiites; both hate the Druse, and all three detest the Nusairiyeh.
The Maronites have no particular love for anybody and, in turn, are disliked by all. The Greeks cannot endure the Greek Catholics - all despise the Jews. And the same remarks apply to the minor divisions of this land. There is no common bond of union. Society has no continuous strata underlying it, which can be opened and worked for the general benefit of all, but an endless number of dislocated fragments, faults, and dikes, by which the masses are tilted up in hopeless confusion, and lie at every conceivable angle of antagonism to each other.
The omnific Spirit that brooded over primeval chaos can alone bring order out of such confusion, and reduce these conflicting elements into peace and concord. No other country in the world, I presume, has such a multiplicity of antagonistic races ; and herein lies the greatest obstacle to any general and permanent amelioration and improvement of their condition, character, and prospects.
They can never form one united people , never combine for any important religious or political purpose ; and will therefore remain weak, incapable of self-government, and exposed to the invasions and oppressions of foreigners. Thus it has been, is now, and must long continue to be a people divided, meted out, and trodden down."
*"The Land and the Book" by W.M. Thomson - Published in London in 1870*
This text was written in 1870, not today. Let that sink in!

Everyone in Lebanon is clever, but is anyone wise?

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today, I am wise, so I am changing myself" so said Jalaledine Runi. Wise words - sorry for the pun. Here's my question - the more I talk to people about the manifestations - the more I hear the oddest theories. Someone said they wanted free hospitals, but did not want to pay taxes to get them.
Why? "el hadr" (waste/corruption) was the answer. There is always this idea that someone else is to pay for this. No one is to touch what is their current income, or source of money. The recent spike in government and public employee salaries was a harakiri - but it came right bang prior to the elections. Super! Higher salaries!
Yay! But - ahem - where do we pay for them? "El amlek el bahriyye" (the coastal properties) was the answer. These properties by the sea that people frequent and which are points of contention and which should be taxed or what not. But again, I see no logic in the answer. Just words about this or the other. I do not blame people with regards to not trusting the governmental entities, but no one wants to start any change with their artifcial high standard of living.
It seems I am blaming the small guy here. I am not. Even among the top brass, right now there is nothing being done but finger pointing to one another. Naturally, it is everyone that got us to where we are, and their recklnessness and their lack of care. But - as I said earlier - who elected them, not once, not twice but several times.
"We cheated on me once, shame on him. He cheated on me twice, shame on me". Clever as the Lebanese are, they do not feel any shame it seems though.
Eveyone in Lebanon is clever, is anyone wise to start change with his/her own self?

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Lebanon, the pregnant widow, and people not knowing what they want.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
(As you are, you shall be governed - Imam Ali)

Newsflash: I like the protesters dancing dabke, I find the man in the inflatable pool quite funny in the middle of the highway, the woman adjusting her lipstick on her reflection on the shield of an anti-riot troop got me in giggles, the DJ right there in Tripoli playing tracks was cool, and the man doing grilled chicken too is hilarious. The "bon enfant" ambiance is super, truly.
Oh - just so long you remember that the people are supposedly rebelling against were voted into power in 2018. Which is not long ago, mind you. Whether votes were out of conviction or simply opportunism is not the question.
Let it be known, I did not vote.
Imam Ali did say it "as you are, so you shall be governed". One of the things that baffle me the most is - what do protesters want? As in really, really want? (Sorry I went into Spice Girls mode here).
Their "manifesto" is - at best - a joke. Need I remind you we tried it before in 2005 to varying degrees of bad results.
Today I am convinced the people manifesting do not know what they want. The know what they do not want. Which could be a good place to start, but not a good place to end.
Russian writer Alexander Heren did say "the departing world leaves behind it not an heir, but a pregnant widow" - the problem in Lebanon is that pregnant widows end up marrying the same suitors over and over.
You voted for them, the suitors, expecting full-blown heirs.
Let that sink in.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Revolution 2.0 - back when we believed

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
We did it before in 2005. Now they are doing it again.
Somewhere after, I wrote this:

Back when we believed
By Tarek Joseph Chemaly

Back when we believed,
And I can't believe.
That we don't believe anymore.

What shall we do with the slogans now?
What shall we do with the pins?
Or the wristbands, or the T-shirts or the scarves?

So many flags waved,
So many fears braved,
How do we get rid of them?
Where do we bury them?
And what if we need them once more?
In case we go back to believing.

Back when we believed,
We chanted and shouted,
And talked to strangers,
And mocked the dangers,
With luster in our eyes,
We claimed that we believed.

And now, we believe no more,
And wonder how come we once did,
Back when we believed,
And I can't believe,
That we don't believe anymore.

Mondays for manifestations,
And Tuesdays for sit-ins,
Wednesdays for night shifts,
Thursdays and Fridays for anticipation,
And then the weekend begins.

I think we eventually got sold,
I just hope they got a good price,
But well, for a time at least, it was nice,
Just to think that we actually believed.

Idole by Lancome - a full-blown feminist statement.

"We are the future/ The world is ours/ Dream big/ Stand strong/ I can/ We will/ We are Idoles"
If there is any doubt Idole by Lancome totally erases it. Naturally this is a rallying cry to women. Not sure who will bother to read those words - probably people stuck in the traffic jam at that intersection - but one thing clear: They are not here to play and such words pack a punch!

Friday, October 18, 2019

Crepaway shows smartness communicating about the manifestations.

"In solidarity with Lebanon fight against corruption, inefficiency and lack of proper economic strategies, we will be closed today. Stay safe and peaceful ✌️❤ #lebanon #ourlebanon #change" so went Crepaway announcing their closure today. Compare to how ABC Mall, Le Mall, VOX cinemas, City Mall, or BLOM Bank announced their own closing - all other institutions were more detached/cold in their announcements whereas Crepeway went full-fledged and embraced the manifestations! On a more practical note, they know who butters their bread - idealistic youngsters who go to Crepaway to celebrate and meet (same people who are actually manifesting. A win-win!

The "small" request of the manifestants in Lebanon

So I read this somewhere on the ether. Who did this specifically I know not. But it comes apparently from the "manifestants" in the streets of  Lebanon. Here's a small translation about their demands:
"One request and otherwise this is not a game:
Resignation of the president
Resignation of the government
Resignation of the members of the parliament
The army taking reign of the power
Forbidding anyone in the currently elected from seeking reelection and putting everyone under house arrest
Removing international banking secrecy and getting back all the stolen money to the state
Removing electoral laws which date bate to the Ottoman and French mendate periods
A new poll on a new constitution
Dissolution of all Lebanese parties
Stopping the pension of all members of the parliament, ministers and presidents (when you stop serving you stop earning).
Long may you live and long may Lebanon live"

It took us forever to elect a president, ditto to form a government, the electoral law which got the current parliament takes a math genius to understand (I talked to a math genius at the time and he barely understood it).
So the army taking power? Hmmmm, it happened before to results which were not fabulous (interestingly, someone asked me in a private conversation when I raised the point, "who else do you suggest?"). OK so you want to forbid anyone in power from getting reelected - maybe you should check this piece as a reference....
House arrest? Sweetie, all of them own multiple villas, there are no "house" here.
Removing international banking secrecy? Hello, Geneva? Wrong number!
A new poll on the constitution as written by? Whom? We just let all the goons out of the power, remember? Please do not say "technocrat".
Dissolution of all Lebanese parties. OK, I shall let this one slide. It is too humourous.
Now whereas I am not against pensions being stopped, I remember when President Emile Lahoud wanted the ministers and MPs to put one month salary to support the economy - Issam Fares the vice-Prime Minister objected on the grounds that his salary was pre-booked to help people in his native Akkar region and that doing so would interfere with his pre-made plans. The man naturally had a lot of money elsewhere but he was making a major point as to who "owns" his money/salary and who is allowed to toy with it.
Long may you live and long may Lebanon live - I got nothing against this. 

Afaal and the extreme poverty law vote

Afaal has (or is?) a new campaign targetting the law for extreme poverty (it is even supported - or perhaps initiated? - by a political party: National Bloc). "Does he/she not deserve your vote?" says the slogan on the backdrop of images of people who supposedly are in extreme poverty conditions? Well, I have no clue how this law is supposed to work or its modalities, or how it be executed (there is a major explainer here, but again there is a "vague" element in the wording). Sadly, the campaign is right bang on time when the whole country is ablaze (no, not just due to the fires!) but also in manifestations of socio-economic classes who have had enough with regards to many issues (do note the decision to tax whatsapp calls was really that straw that broke the camel's back). All this being said, the campaign is interesting, it just comes at the utterly wrong time.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

No, I do not have anything to say about the fires in Lebanon.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
No, I do not have anything to say about the fires in Lebanon. There, I said it. Anyone who is anyone posted something or the other online about them. As Crisis Relief Singapore said in their ad "liking isn't helping". I saw a  teenager putting (badly cropped) photos online and an academic sharing a widely circulating comic (about the cedar in the flag burning) and then he privately messaged me an image of him in Miami by the sea. Do note, I am not debating if the teenager or the academic were not concerned, naturally, yes they are.
But in the grand scheme of things, I do not see how their concern brought more water to the firefighters, I do not see how that man who tried to do "creative" ads about what happened when what is needed is canned food or asthma medicine. But you might say, "Oh shut up Tarek, did you deliver any canned food or asthma medicine yourself?" or worse "did you do "creative" ads about it?" - I did neither, and no I am not bragging, I am being a realist.
What realism is that when the country is burning?
"Il faut cultiver notre jardin" (we must cultivate our garden) said Voltaire at the end of Candide. No better, he said "Oui, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin" (yes, but we must cultivate our garden) in reply to Pangloss demagogic statements.
So whereas I was not helping quell fires (that technically I had no ability to quell to begin with), I was not making online sensations, or making matters worse, or spreading some meaningless hashtag (am sure #prayforlebanon was trending). I was simply trying to pass the most fruitful, logical day I can making sure my house is being readied for winter (because, and no this is not a Game Of Thrones parody - winter is coming!), attending to what my mother needs, removing dirt from the roof to allow better circulation of water canals and other mundane non-fire related things.
Do I feel for people who lost their houses, belongings, or to the loved ones of the man and woman who lost his lives? Yes, I certainly do. But one thing I am sure of, expressing this on social media will not give my mother her night medicines.
So excuse me, I was cultiving my garden. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

October 13 1990 in Lebanon - Questioning history (101)

And in Lebanon some things happen, then they do not - just like in a Garcia Marquez story... This was October 13 1990.

Balkis rides the Lebanese apples bandwagon

What's with everyone scrambling to support Lebanese apple producers, Balkis rides the bandwagon with them emphasizing they produce "Pure Lebanese Juice" from Lebanese apples, with - tadam - the image of an apple peeled with the shape of the Lebanese map. Balkis (see here, here and here) always have conceptually very interesting ads, but it is the execution that always veers towards the sophomoric rendering the concepts much less interesting. Still, this is the right ad at the right time, so strategy wise, it was a smart outing.