Monday, September 16, 2019

Kurban travel and civil marriage

"Because all paths led to you (civil marriage starrting $1,395)" so goes Kurban Travel. Well, let us to be honest, this price is peanuts compared to a wedding in Lebanon where nothing goes under $50,000 and since inter-religious marriage is still banned in Lebanon and civil marriage is still banned as well, one could easily see the benefits of such an offer. Hmmmm, now no one said anything about a beach wedding, but hey, it's romantic!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Saudi Arabia tourism vs. Lebanon tourism - compare and contrast

Saudi Arabia has a new tourism campaign! "this is not (such and such place). Brilliant - but wait? The exact same campaign was done prior for tourism in Lebanon where they would ask "(such and such place)?" only to understand it is in Lebanon. The copycat element is too flagrant sadly to ignore! What a pity, just when KSA seems to be embracing tourism, they also seem to be embracing copyright infringement.

IBL Bank rides the Lebanese currency bandwagon

BankMedAudi, Byblos, Blom, have all (as Lebanese banks) enticed customers to use the Lebanese Pound. Now it is IBL Bank that does so - "think Lebanese, pay Lebanese". I entice you to read this article by Dan Azzi to understand how precarious our financial situation is (here). Honestly, it baffles me how all banks are still pretending that all is fine and dandy when the financial indicators are off the charts!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Jaune misses the mark with #Jaunenobles

It could be that the old communication team left, or perhaps suddenly the brand (Jaune) has become devoid of taste, or an extreme cost-cutting measure... No matter the reason #Jaunenobles is a fiasco. The brand, which not long ago was potraying itself as minimalist (but not a "less is bore" minimalist brand), and would take us yearly to aspirational settings (hint: in 2016 it was my own pop world they entered!).
Now? To be honest I scratch my head as to the meaning of this. All this seems like a throwback to a La Redoute 80s layout - without the funkiness that La Redoute had - with a copy that makes my heart ache all done and a setting that both, fails to sell the clothing properly and fails to sell the mood (just to be clear I have nothing against fashion selling mood - just look at the Hermes magazine, pages upon pages of photography that sells a theme so much that in the end, you want to go there and buy coat from Hermes to walk into those forests you just saw!). Still, this is a sad degeneration on many fronts.
I am hoping this is a passing episode, but judging from precursor signs, I think not.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Uber takes safety seriously

Could this be related to the Uber driver who killed British embassy worker in 2017? No idea but Uber is going out o a limb to stress the safety element - One such ad talks about the "instant check up on the idenity of the driver" and another says "safety features are available in the app". Again no idea what prompted this, but they seem to go really out to spread the message. So Uber is safe people. At least this is what the ads say.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The majestic Baalbeck exhibition at Sursock Museum

It lasts until September 22, so hurry up and visit it! What can I say? I entered the Sursock museum expecting a lecturesque exhibition about Baalbeck, and came up mind blown as to how vivid the city was portrayed. As I entered the room, the first fragment is historical, but in a new multimedia-activated way. But turn the first corner and prepare to be more amazed! Currency with Baalbeck on it? Check. Stamps with Baalbeck on it? Check. A whole room with the mesmerizing memorablia related to the festival? Movies shot there? Interviews with city inhabitants? Check on all fronts. And an incredible, breezy, scenography (something which sadly eluded some exhibitions a the museum lately) where you simply go on an organized trajectory as you experience different facets in the city. A tremendous, emotionally moving show.

USEK and the EU-funded CEDRO, a match made in environmental heaven


By Tarek Chemaly (originally published here)

Université Saint-Esprit De Kaslik – (USEK) teams up with the European Union funded CEDRO project to implement a sustainable energy strategy at the university level and action plans to mitigate climate change. All this providing positive change to the university community at large.

Université Saint-Esprit De Kaslik – (USEK) is, on a late August day, buzzing with students shuttling between departments as they register courses and prepare for the upcoming semester which starts early September. The campus is busy, but also filled with energy that only youth can radiate. Students who had not seen each other all summer hug and kiss and catch up on their news as they meet with their advisors to coordinate the fall semester courses. Unseen to them are solar panels installed on top of the main building and the faculty of agriculture, as part of CEDRO a European Union (EU) funded initiative.

USEK at a glance
USEK is a private Catholic institution of higher education, which has been founded in 1938 by the Lebanese Maronite Order (LMO) and which has been governed by them since its inception. While having a glorious past, it does not sleep on its laurels and always strives for more achievements in the future as they use the fruitful present as a stepping stone - notably in the domain related to the environment.
Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, on the coast of Mount Lebanon, the university boasts a lively main campus, full of greenery, and several architectural buildings stemming from different eras, yet mixing together in full harmony. Strolling through its campus, the lush vegetation protects one from the adverse effects of the burning Lebanese summer, but look closely and other signs of a broader environmental program can be seen: Recycling bins, sorting trash sings, eco-design projects left by entrepreneurial students and the list continues.
USEK is certainly impressive when it comes to numbers, its 2018 figures include: 7386 Students, 20182 Graduates since 2001-2002, 875 Faculty out of which, 230 Full-time Faculty Members and 645 Part-time Faculty Members, 354 Administrative and Technical Staff.
Pope Francis, in the second encyclical of his pontificate, Laudato Si, says it clearly: "I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all."
USEK, and not only because of its Catholic roots, took this to heart and has been implementing a rigorous environmental zero waste program, which allowed it to be elected number one green university in Lebanon according to the UI GreenMetric World University Rankings in 2017.

The EU funded CEDRO project
The CEDRO Phase 4 project was a five-year EU-funded project (January 2014 - August 2018) on renewable energy and energy efficiency implemented by UNDP. Its main objective was to "green" the energy sector through the application of renewable energy and energy efficiency systems and measures across Lebanon’s several economic sectors.
Its objectives were to: (i) support the Ministry of Finance to lessen public and private financial burdens related to energy expenditure, reducing therefore income burden and increasing security of supply; (ii) support the Ministry of Energy and Water to promote renewable energy up to 12% of the energy mix by 2020 and increase energy efficiency by 5%; (iii) promote small-scale renewable energy sources through demonstration projects, capacity building and awareness-raising on the one hand, and analysis on renewable energy resources in terms of potential and policy recommendations; (iv) and enhance the drive towards a green economy, creating new ‘green’ jobs, particularly through engaging the private sector.
At USEK, the installed system has a capacity of 212 KWp, produces a yield of 275,575 kWh, saves 221 tons of CO2 emissions, and boasts an area of 1900 m2. That would be the same as what 45 cars produce annually in terms of CO2 emissions and its financial saving equals USD 44,092 a year. The system cost 195,000 USD and was financed at the rate of 50% from the EU and 50% from USEK through the National Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Action (NEEREA) loan.

Father Dr. Talal Hachem, the USEK rector
Born in 1970, Father Talal Hachem is the newly appointed President of USEK, he looks younger than his age, is affable, is quite efficient but also has those soft leadership skills that makes the staff around him - oh, and he is prone to laughing often. Father Hachem has held several key academic positions at USEK where in 2013, he was appointed Dean of the School of Law, then Vice President for Community Life in 2016. In 2019 he was named President of the University.
Going as far back as 2013, Father Hachem, in one of his speeches at the university emphasized that: “Urban lifestyles greatly influence all relationships that we build with each other and with the land. Nevertheless, the development undertaken by the majority of third world countries has resulted in a massive migration phenomenon plus an increasing urban expansion, which has led to a serious environmental problem”.
The environmental issue has always been on the mind of the rector which makes the European Union funded CEDRO a perfect match for his personality and mode of thinking. It is not by chance that his first graduating class he summoned over had the motto of “Let’s Get to Work!” which reflects his practical and community-based ethos and mode of thinking. 
“At USEK we believe university is not a matter of just degrees and courses, we are not graduating robots, but rather good responsible citizens, global citizens, and it is our job to raise their awareness, to make them grow and mature,” argues Father Hachem. “And not just in the small community, but the one at large as well,” he goes on. “We want those environmental values to accompany them, to enrich our students. It was part of the orientation session for new students this year as a matter of fact.” He thoughtfully adds: “Naturally it takes time, any change in mentality does, but this is idea of “this does not depend on me” - we need to eradicate it and make all our students, staff and faculty understand that we are in this together”.
“CEDRO was so important for us because it was the first pilot project after which the solid waste management facility came, it was the precursor that launched the rest of our activities. Actually, we moved aggressively with our environmental activities, we no longer print invite cards to our events and at this stage, our business cards are no longer using glossy paper which is not immediately recyclable. Sure, it will be in hundreds of years, but it is us - as humans who need nature, nature does not need us. And we are making sure through social media to keep our own graduate community close through outreach activities.” 

Dr. Joseph Al Assad, CEDRO project coordinator at USEK
Having earned his Ph.D. in 2008, Dr. Joseph Al Assad is an assistant professor at USEK chairing several departments in the process and is currently the dean of the faculty of engineering – USEK in addition to being a member of The Higher Center for Research at the university. Since 2011, Dr. Al Assad is an advisor at the Ministry of Energy and Water and at the Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation (LCEC). Yet beneath this impressive CV lies a charming and dedicated person.
In person, he is incredibly tall, quite forthcoming and easy to deal with, and judging by his tone of voice, incredibly proud of the EU-funded CEDRO project and the results that came to be at USEK.
“Our figures indicate that in 2018, 1,508,947 Lbs of CO2 were avoided, or the equivalent of the emissions of 151 passenger cars, or the energy of 4,065 computers a year. Since it started the system has generated 528,44 MWh, at this stage we cover 20% of the university needs”. 
He then adds - pointing from his balcony towards parts of the university: “The phase II of the project will be financed at the tune of 1,5 Million USD and will include overhauling the whole lighting system with LED lamps - naturally, the idea being - what is the point of generating clean energy if it is to squander it on bad ways of spending it? But then the idea is that we will embark on another solar panel extension which will cover the roof of the new parking lot. Then we are talking about 60-70% of the university consumption with the excess during down months feeding back to grid”.
“Ultimately,” he adds, “we wanted the USEK community to see that it can be done, that there would be no indifference, that everyone would feel concerned. CEDRO was truly that trigger which made things happen.”


Having earned his Ph.D. in 2008, Dr. Joseph Al Assad is an assistant professor at USEK chairing several departments in the process and is currently the dean of the faculty of engineering – USEK in addition to being a member of The Higher Center for Research at the university. Since 2011, Dr. Al Assad is an advisor at the Ministry of Energy and Water and at the Lebanese Center for Energy Conservation (LCEC). Yet beneath this impressive CV lies a charming and dedicated person.
In person, he is incredibly tall, quite forthcoming and easy to deal with, and judging by his tone of voice, incredibly proud of the EU-funded CEDRO project and the results that came to be at USEK.
“Our figures indicate that in 2018, 1,508,947 Lbs of CO2 were avoided, or the equivalent of the emissions of 151 passenger cars, or the energy of 4,065 computers a year. Since it started the system has generated 528,44 MWh, at this stage we cover 20% of the university needs”.
He then adds - pointing from his balcony towards parts of the university: “The phase II of the project will be financed at the tune of 1,5 Million USD and will include overhauling the whole lighting system with LED lamps - naturally, the idea being - what is the point of generating clean energy if it is to squander it on bad ways of spending it? But then the idea is that we will embark on another solar panel extension which will cover the roof of the new parking lot. Then we are talking about 60-70% of the university consumption with the excess during down months feeding back to grid”.
“Ultimately,” he adds, “we wanted the USEK community to see that it can be done, that there would be no indifference, that everyone would feel concerned. CEDRO was truly that trigger which made things happen.”

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Jordan is suddenly out on the streets

Hmmm, did Jordan come back to the Lebanese market? Has it left it at any point? I am not sure, what I do know is that this is the first time I see a Jordan toothbrush ad - it is to note that their direct competitor Oral B also does not advertise out in the open (at least not in Lebanon - I do see their ads in dentist cabinets though). So it is truly a surprise to see Jordan out in the open trying to reach the public (I don't know if the visual means that people who use it as toddlers end up with good teeth as adults or just portraying two sets of brushes one for kids and one for adults).

Monday, September 9, 2019

Exotica - one day these ads will make sense to me.

Lately, I totally lost the thread of the Exotica ads. To begin with #happybynature was too ho-hum for me. Now? Honestly, I no longer get it. Remember - I am an agriculture engineer and an environmental economist, you cannot sell me anything related to nature and be gullible about it. The cause to effect in the ad above eludes me totally, completely. "Sleep better"? How? Please. Explain it to me like I was a 5 year old. I can understand plants producing CO2, I get that. But this

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Kiri goes back to school

Another wink that does not mention school but means it outright. Kiri cheese is all out with this one "an irresistible taste", pity they do not go back to their beautiful "ta3m ya2khoz kolla tafkiri" (where they inserted the brand name in the signature (which is sadly nowhere to be found online so I had to recreate it myself).

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Picon goes back to shcool

Now here is a going back to school with a purpose, Picon cheese is offering a chance to win a scholarship! Well, why not? It is indeed the back to school season, and Picon cheese wants its part of the pie. Not sure about the mechanism but interesting the made all efforts to allude to school in the visual.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Henri Asmar - Think it over again - soon in Beit Beirut

The sun, the sea, the sky - Henri Asmar (Acrylic on canvas)
Lizard King - Henri Asmar (Acrylic and spray paint on canvas)
Henri Asmar, a Lebanese architect who graduated from the American University of Beirut, is making his first foray in the art world in a solo exhibition at Beit Beirut which will take place between 11 and 13th of September. His works, lively, vibrant but also structurally cohesive are grouped under the title "think it over again" - an apt name which invites the viewer to dig deeper into the works which seem as if Jean-Michel Basquiat and Fernand Leger had a love child as they oscillate between graffiti and two-dimensional interpretations. What seems chaotic is actually an organized madness with a clear thread that runs through the works.
In his own words, Asmar says: "I think architecture is a culmination of many elements working together to create a project. You have to be a thinker, a poet, an artist, a sculptor, a photographer, a scientist, a lover, a hater, a philosopher, a partygoer, a dancer, a businessman, a politician, alive" and as his architectural thinking becomes artistic works, it is no wonder they blend all these elements into large scale canvas. Collectors already snapped up some of the pieces - and agreed to lend them from their private collections for the exhibition.

Disclosure: Henri is a second degree cousin, but my text and appreciation are independent of our blood relation.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Zwan goes back to school

Zwan, one of the best examples of including your name in your selling line (see here!) has started to sneak into the back to school game. What does this have to do with school? Must I explain everything? Sandwiches during recess. Do note, high praise for them not messing with a classic ad. If it ain't broke don't fix it!

Pilot goes back to school

"School is coming" - wink to "winter is coming" - and if you are really thick and did not get it it, Pilot signs it with "Game of fonts". OK maybe they over did it with the signature because 1) if you know the reference better not dumb it down and 2) if you do not, the signature will not make it easy.

iStyle goes back to school

This ad has so many competing elements in it - it is hardly readable. And the only way to read was to, like me, stop in the middle of the street to do it. Surely "top of its class" is a wink to students. But it goes downhill from there. A sub-headline, two macs with prominent photos, an address phoene number and what not (really? on a billboard on the highway!) and then as an afterthought a logo - iStyle. Barely visible in all that mess.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Lebanese Forces suffer digital blow on their annual mass

OK, so the annual martyrs' mass is the biggest agenda-setting celebration for the Lebanese Forces. This year the hashtag was #ما_راحو (please refer here for explanation) - but whereas this was supposed to be the predominant # it seems the LF supporters of the archival FPM (Free Patriotic Movement) managed to force the #ما_راحو_لجعجع which is a play on words on the original # and which means "they did not die for Geagea" - in reference to the martyrs. No matter the details, to be able to achieve such a digital coup on the LF most strategic day is indeed important. Pity, seems the LF crowd did not react swiftly allowing the setback to predominate digitally.

Staedtler goes back to school

"The inspiation is back" - which makes me wonder. Has Staedtler left the market and is slowly coming back? I don't know, I do not shop for stationary but is it interesting they might be playing this tune. On all accounts, the brand is present on many billboards and formats - a clear sign they mean business (do not this is the first time I see their ads on the streets).

Puck goes back to school

Nothing about this ad says back to school. But think about it - spread cheese, morning breakfast, sandwiches for kids with smurfs included. Please, this is begging to say back to school. Well, I am not the target audience of the ads - mothers and children are. Goes without saying Puck is deploying all efforts to conquer a bit of the Lebanese spread cheese market owned by other brands.

Pritt goes back to school

"Everything you can imagine" (althought I think this should read "Pritt everything you can imagine" so here it is - August is ending and schools will start soon so the market is innundated with such ads. Nothing too remarkable about this ad but it does not go unnoticed since it is plastered on the Dora roundabout.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Byblos Bank and the ad that says too much.

"Spend 2,500 Euros in the Eurozone, get 15,000 free miles" in itself this is a long proposition, add to it the legal notice, the mandatory contact number, the Visa card and the Byblos Bank logos and you have a crowded ad. But no, on top of all this, there is "Ole Ole" and a Spanish scene making the billboard too messy to be understood. Whereas esthetically without an issue, as a billboard it is too loaded to be processed, and could have easily gained from more simplicity.