|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?