Tuesday, December 18, 2018

On being a waitress in Manhattan - jobs and job titles on Linkedin.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
In the movie "As Good As It Gets", Jack Nicholson's doctor pays a visit to Helen Hunt's character's house urging her to go back to the work she quit because she's "urgently needed back at work". Inquiring what work she does the doctor is asnwered: "I'm a waitress". Seeing the reaction of the doctor, her mother adds the saving grace: "In Manhattan".
"Waitress... In Manhattan" seems to encapsulate the Linkedin job titles I keep seing on that social media platform. Am I guilty of that? My own Linkedin title is "think tank - multimedia artist". You could tell me, "but no man is a think tank all to himself!". Well, that's because my multihyphenate titles simply do not fit there: I am an engineer, economist, advertiser, strategist, copywriter, university lecturer, blogger, publisher, communication specialist, advertising festival juror, and the list goes on. Oh and I am a multimedia artist too!
When people ask me what I do I usually answer "communication consultant and university lecturer", took me forever to come up with such a (correct or approximative) description of what I do. Actually someone once described me as "failed advertiser turned blogger" which perhaps is a more truthful way of articulating what I do, and if you add the comment that was left on the previous version of the blog that "(I) overcharge my clients for work" this could just describe my life. Do note, my communication services are indeed expensive relative to the market - specifically that the market is pseudo-dead these days which reminds me of the Lebanese idiom "baddo menno w tfou 3aleih" (he needs him yet spits on him).
But "revenons a nos moutons" as the french expression goes. I sometimes see such baffling job descriptions on Linkedin I wonder what the person actually does in life. Sure, what we do in life needs a little salting and peppering for it to be more attractive, that's part of the branding process (and I always say that if one cannot sell himself how can it sell its clients?).
You must have heard of the Payless experiment that convinced influencers to pay 600 Dollars for a 20 Dollar pair of shoes simply by creating a fake brand and shop called Palessi. Even in Lebanon, Andre Sayegh replicated this injecting a run of the mill Amatoury 114 cheap perfume into a bottle and calling it Entrecote Balsamic by Hermes - the results are of course staggering.
Do note, the proof in the end is - as the expression goes - "in the pudding". If you cannot deliver on the product promise, if you cannot sustain your title, clients would turn their back on you - just ask the advertising big wigs in Lebanon: As soon as they underperformed they were unceremniously shown to the door.
So next time you post a job title on Linkedin, it better be up on par with "waitress in Manhattan" and be able to serve Jack Nicholson so as for him to be want to be a "better man" - otherwise "waitress" is just fine as a descriptive of your work.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Questioning history - Zahle '61 (88)

Artworks by Tarek Chemaly
The famous flower parade (look closely and you will see political mercantilism). The "beauty queen of the apples". A town not yet a city.

Friday, December 14, 2018

A very belated eulogy of Walid S Azzi because words failed me.

It was not supposed to be like that, I was supposed to help him write his memoirs. We often spoke about it and every time we did he would add another anecdote about the people of the industry. Walid Azzi - founder of ArabAd magazine - passed away on Nov. 29th. As to why it took me so long to write about it, it is because this hit me very hard on a personal level. 
As I grow older I know not all friendships are alike - some people you go out with for a drink, others you speak to daily, even others you work with and ipso facto have lunch with, and others - as in the case of Walid - you know they are there.You do not have to question their loyalty towards you, you do not have to guess if they are on your corner or not. You just know they are there. 
I knew about his passing sadly quite late so only managed to get there on the last day of condolences. Me, the one who always finds the rights words, sat there not knowing what to say to Nino, Ghada and Rim - his children.
Not once, but twice, he came plunging in when people in the ad industry wanted my skin because I dared say what others whispered. So if I am writing this very late, it is because all words were eluding me. It is ironic that the prologue to his book "From The Vault" which was issued this year which came from me and which I am reproducing below, ended up being his most sincere eulogy from my part.
But it was not supposed to be like that, I was supposed to help him write his memoirs.

"Alamak helou" he said in Arabic, that was the year 2000, and that was my first foray in writing for ArabAd. The sentence means "you have a nice pen" literally, and figuratively it says "your style of writing is impressive" - snarky as I always am, I replied "you mean: keyboardak helou?" ("You have a nice keyboard?").
The exchange would come to symbolize how we would always communicate, by hints, by sentences with hidden meanings, by semi-words interposed. But he - that would be "Walid" - would always have an advantage over me: He was the kind one.
Walid S. Azzi, later I learned the S. stands for Shaheen, the man behind the signature which adorns the first page of every issue of ArabAd, the famed "Publisher's Letter". From the days when pan-Arab publications were a thing, to when (in the middle of the Lebanese war no less) the Lebanese chapter of the IAA was so vibrant it won the Golden Tulip award, to the rise of women in advertising, to ethical issues, to the men of the year, and whole myriad of topics, the "Publisher's Letter" was there - a witness, which - even if admonishing at times - never let go of the kindness element that came to be associated with the man who wrote it.
As time came to pass, that wealth of archive became a pivot in terms of creating a barometer for the advertising scene in Lebanon. The same scene which saw the demise of many "fallen soldiers" way before their time.
But on they went, a testimony of times gone by, which - once we strip the methods and media and means - still reverberate today with the same issues we face - the same questions as to the advertising industry its present and future, as a derivative of its past.
And now, many of those letters have been compiled for our pleasure, a dive back into a memory lane of a time when a whole generation of advertisers were setting the pace and rules for an industry which has come to flourish, and even if today it struggles, it is the kind of struggle that brings with it new sets of rules, new tweaks of the old ones to take a step so as to jump again higher.
I know that the word that everyone describes such endeavors is "archive", however, I beg to differ, to me archive is dead substance, and the living equivalent of it is called "memory". So this book symbolizes an effort that encompasses memory, in a fight against oblivion in a world with a short attention span. George Santanaya did say "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
So in order not fall into the pitfall of repeating issues which have dodged us in the past, let us all reread those "Publisher's letters" - or at least those that Walid has selected to put in this book from the many original works which were printed in ArabAd.
As someone who is always on the critical side towards the advertising and communication industry - in Lebanon and in the Arab world at large - I know that these words will be a refresher as to how to best go forward in an ever-shifting world.
And to quote the last episode of Downtown Abbey when Isobel - Baroness Merton - while raising a glass to 1926 says: "We’re going forward to the future, not back into the past.” Lady Violet - Dowager Countess of Gratham - played brilliantly by Dame Maggie Smith answers back giggling, “If only we had the choice.”
So whereas we have no choice but to look to the future, how about we do it while resting on a solid past?

Noha El Khatib Saade is no more among us.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
Noha El Khatib Saade, one of the loveliest faces of the TeleLiban era and part of our collective memory is no more among us. May she rest in peace.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Megaphone Tehin Tehin on the 100 years of Mount Lebanon's hunger

It has been a 100 years since the infamous Mount Lebanon hunger, and Megaphone just did a super splendid animation to commemorate that. The job is super well done even if on a shoestring budget as the time coded images prove (next time just zoom in people!). Still, this is not to belittle the great effort done. Please watch the full video here. Incredible job indeed!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

On the non-existent Christmas in Lebanon

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
If advertising is the barometer of the economy, and we know it is, then we are - for sure - in deep trouble. There are almost no Christmas ads. I saw two for New Year's parties in two different restaurants where hiring singers (famous or semi-famous) is de norme, and that is about it.
On my instagram feed, it's been ads upon ads of discounts - severe discounts. Anyone except one specific luxury store whose sales start right after Christmas have slashed their prices hoping to lure shoppers into otherwise empty stores. Yes, on a well-known shopping street, four stores next to one another stand closed with no one renting them.
With just days to go till Christmas, shoppers are trying to budget themselves - understandably. There are decorations on the streets for sure, municipalities have injected large budgets for that. It does add to the ambiance (I think of Jounieh as a prime example). But I have heard it from many shop owners or managers that the situation is absolutely dismal.
The weather is a mixed blessing - this year there are rains: On the one hand we need that, on the other as a restaurant owner told me "as soon as it rains people get wet and stop coming out". Restaurants are one of the rare industries still - barely - standing on its feet mind you.
Yes I know, it all sounds like I am some Debbie Downer. But sometimes I feel everyone is living in some protected bubble unable to see the people who no longer wait for the night to rummage through trash bins, who are unaware how much schools and universities are barely thriving since parents no longer can pay tuitions (in a specific case, this fall, a little less than two thirds of the students at a certain university did not renew their inscriptions casting a major doubt on the ability of the university to keep itself alive).
I do understand that the whole nature of advertising is changing, and that billboards no longer represent the whole of the festive season, but let's be real: no Christmas ads does not sound good. At. All.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

MTV speakers disappear for Human Rights Day! #حقك_ما_بيختفي

And for Human Rights Day, MTV speakers disappeared - just like thousands upon thousands of those who did so during the war. At the beginning of the evening news, the news anchors were nowhere to be seen for a few minutes to show support for the families and loved ones of the 17,000 people who have gone missing. Following the stunt, a social media activation was initiated where where people were asked to change their profile photo to a blank white in support of those who've gone missing using the hashtag #حقك_ما_بيختفي - a worthy initiative for sure signed TBWA/Raad.

Uber Eats x Coca-Cola - Romance strikes again.

So you are working on Christmas eve? Uber Eats x Coca-Cola will bring you a home cooked meal fore free to your place of work. Watch the ad here. The idea of the service and the ad itself were created by Romance - the agency behind l'amour l'amour for Intermarche! The ad is truly lovely even if to be perfect - the middle section could have been dropped (golf club scene was beyond annoying). But it does strike the right chords throughout.

#shareamomentofjoy - the Christmas ad.

Ah here's a small jewel from Joy (the detergent brand). Watch it here.
Lovely throughout until it drives home the point. "For those who make sacrifices for their families". I cannot say more about the ad - it is so incredibly emotionally striking to be honest.

Volkswagen on the force of self-censorship!

Volkswagen showed everyone how it is done! The ad comes from Australia for the Volkswagen Amarok but consors said it was encouraging unsafe practices. So the company re-edited the movie and took off the censored parts and in its own sneaky way re-portrayed them. The ad proved the vehicle was still too powerful for TV. See the ad here.
This reminds me of one of the best print ads I have ever seen! Where? Saudi Arabia. An ad for an underwear brand. For men. How on earth do you advertise it when they censor everything? The ad was auto-censored from the ad agency itself (by coloring in black all the suggestive flesh places - which in this case was almost all the ad) and signed with the line "so hot it SHOULD be censored".

Sunday, December 9, 2018

When the artist can no longer be separated from the art.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
Pablo Neruda, the great poet, resistant, thinker was to have an airport named after him in Chile. Then a humongous no-go campaign started. Why? Because in his memoirs, Neruda described how he had raped a maid. Kevin Heart just lost his Oscar presenting gig refusing to apologize for past homophobic tweets. Kevin Spacey - obliterated and erased. Suddenly, Wagner's Nazi sympathies can no longer be disregarded, the origins of the tiara Meghan Markle wanted to wear were suspiciously Russian so she had to "settle" for another one. Dolce and Gabanna were just embroiled in a scandal whereby a video they shared online seemed to laugh at the Chinese and their culture - the economic backlash was so violent their show (a supposed love letter to China) was scrapped and their collections take out of major vendors both on and offline.
These days, anything has started to become too "woke". Disney pictures are no longer acceptable because girls are no longer expected to wait for their prince, that wonderful painting in that famous museum could hae been stolen in WWII from a Jewish family, and Gilbert and Georges right leaning sensibilities seem like an important issue to those looking at their art.
Naturally, it is always a question: Can we separate the art from the artist?
Does anyone know that Andy Warhol was a deep believer who went to church daily all while surrounding himself with social outcasts at the factory?
Take John Galliano: thrown out of Dior unceremoniously after an anti-Semitic outburst, he completed his apology lap and is now presiding creatively on the Margiela collections. So, which bits of his work do we boycott? The ones pre- or post- outburst for Dior or even post-apology? Can one still enjoy any Harvey Weinstein movie (the movie producer deep in his neck with sexual charges)? Or wait, how about a Mel Gibson movie (serious questions, Gibson did a PR stunt to apologize for his rants but does it make it OK to see any movie he is in)?
There is an incredibly strong backlash today about - well, practically anything and everything. Is this being socially awake, or being sensitive, or simply acting in a way that society expects us too because it is cool?
The other day, I saw on TV the Weinstein produced "Shakespeare in love" - my reaction?
Who thought of giving Gwineth Parltrow an Oscar for that?

Friday, December 7, 2018

Intermarche just owned Christmas, everyone can go home!

Last year, everyone loved the Christmas ad that Intermarche did, I thought it was several degrees lower than its l'amour l'amour hit TVC. This year, Intermarche comes back with a vengeance except via a press ad. A beautifully written text about Christmas. Pity I cannot translate it to you, but seriously - a masterpiece. Let me just try to transpose the first few sentences:
"To those how just opened their first window of their advent calendar, for those who already ate the chocolate of the 6th window, for those who hope it will be snowy on Christmas eve. For those who do not agree, because they come by car"... And the text continues majestically, funnily...

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Kafa goes back to another distressing ad right before Christmas season.

Before elaborating on this post - I have to say I am as feminist as they come. Not just that, any race, gender or minority being attacked immediately enrages me as an act. And yes, I am aware that women's issues happen in all families no matter the socioeconomic background - when, a few years back, several women were killed by their partners, my own second degree cousin was one of them. No one is immune.
So how does one write such a post without opening the floodgates of incomprehension? Whereas I applaud organizations such as Kafa for the work they do on the ground, I am a little bit skeptical as to their media strategy.
Morrissey once said about the hit song "Do They Know It's Chrstimas Time?" - "One can have great concern for the people of Ethiopia, but it's another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of Great Britain". Unfortunately, Kafa are bordering on that territory.
Yes, violence against women, harassment, incest-rape know no season or no festivities. But having two campaigns about such acts only a week away from Christmas is a bit too much. Lebanon is currently undergoing economical, political, religious, and sectarian pressures at a time the whole atmosphere of the country is glum. Christmas is already being celebrated in a major issue of have and have-nots, with many people ranking in the latter category. Many shops are already holding pre-holiday sales to entice shoppers to part with their money. The weather, still very clement at this stage, is a mixed blessing. On the one hand we need the rain, on the other flooding would be catastrophic for the many homeless (be they Lebanese or Syrians) who are on the streets.
If I am describing this setting, it is necessarily because - and again how do I say that without appearing a bigot? - I think Kafa are doing a disservice to themselves with the media strategy they chose. Since last July, there were dozens of campaigns signed by them. Yes, they scored legal victories, unfortunately, they are now at the over-exposure stage. This sadly where the #metoo movement has headed - what started as a wave of women accusing powerful men of sexual acts against them now is more like "oh it's another one of those stories, what else is on the news?".
And this unfortunately where Kafa have reached - another image of a distressed woman with a black background, another hashtag presumably to fuel interest and social media sharing, another set of logos from international partners. And several campaigns one on top of the other.
Even as someone heavily interested in media, I lost track of what Kafa are claiming today, I had to look at the ads several times in order not to confuse them with the now kaput 522 law.
I am not sure this is the way to go for any of the two organizations, I understand how difficult it is to have so many issues to fight, but "but it's another thing to inflict daily torture on the people of Lebanon" to misquote Morrissey - especially at a time when the social issues are already too glum and pushing people down.
My advice? Let go for a few months, give it a break, this will generate more interest when campaigns start later. At least they will be visible, as it is - they are not to be honest.

Campaign against young girls' marriages in Lebanon

"Still too early" - this is the line which also doubles as "she is too young" that the campaign against children's marriages has adopted in Lebanon. There has been a plethora of campaigns to change the laws regarding domestic violence, rape, early marriage - so much sometimes I feel everyone is stepping on each other's toes in the sense that there is too much going that at one point it becomes not only confusing, but also counter productive sadly. Still, one should see all of these campaigns and hope or the best.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Save the Children goes for bullies

Bullying is no joke so says Save the Children whose famous fundraising line is "do you want to Save the Children?" (try saying no to that). Well, we were all at school and we all witnessed, participated in, or were victims of bullying. With soial media now rampant naturally this is even more widespread - talk to any teenager and they can tell you they were harrassed online. Well, of course the big question is: with so many soical causes to treat (from mistreated women, to early marriage, to refugees, to poverty, and the list goes on...) one wonders where bullying fits in our already over-extended social priorities.

Al Wadi Al Akhdar does ads quietly and smartly.

So Al Wadi Al Akhdar has a new App to launch.
Did they invite influencers to do so? No.
Did they gather sample (fake) mothers to do so? No.
Did they resort to those gimmicks agencies are maddingly resorting to? No.
They just thought who needs this?
Your mother in law is coming for a visit? You just moved to the dorms? Your childen are bored with the same food? You don't know what to cook?
Download the app.
See you do ot have to win at Cannes to come up with an ad that actually makes sense to your audience. Simplicity does it.
Here's another example. The brand is launching its new mezze set with an ad on the dora roundabout. "Mezzetna bit mayyezna" (our mezze makes us stand apart). A no-fuss ad that gets the message across - considering we swear by the brand in the family I for one am eager to try the new range.
One final note? Their website which is marked as alwadi.com - which nothing but a masking tape for their more complicated alwadi-alakhdar.com which appears when you log in. Seriously, "c'est complique de faire simple" as the French say!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

IKEA - the magic man holiday ad.

You know those ads where you smile instinctively at the end of them? Well, let me introduce you to IKEA magic man commercial for the holidays. A kid is having a hard time transforming into a magician. And failing miserably. The only indication it is an Ikea commercial is for that small price tag on the screen but nothing else. Enter his loving grandfather who has tricks of his own. Lovely, warm, understated, a low key very enticing commercial. See it here and enjoy!

Burger King is opening in some Frenchy coucou region in Lebanon

So it seems Burger King is opening in some Frenchy coucou region in Lebanon, because their ad does the rolled "r" a la Francaise (making it seem "gh", think inspector Cluseau if you wish to know the result). They are not disclosing the region, but the bets are on Acharafieh (not misplaced mind you!). A funny ad actually, so let us see where this will land!

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Arc de Triomphe delivers some real graffiti via the Gilets Jaunes.

Well, this is not to give direct political opinion about the Gilets Jaunes sweeping France (even if I am certainly not to the right politically) but what happened this weekend in Paris with riots engulfing the capital engendered one of the rare real graffiti works I have seen since a long time.
Let me explain. When I did my interview with seminal journalist Maria Chakhtoura from whom I carried the torch about documenting graffiti on walls via my Archewallogy book collection (find them for free here!) she said something that resonated deeply in me. For her graffiti ended when the Lebanese combatants ceased using coal to express their opinions on the go and reverted to stencils. I can understand her thinking, Beirut like many other cities is now inundated with graffiti which asks for the permission of the municipality before being executed, long gone is the spirit of the "damn them I am expressing my opinion" which led me (as basically the researcher who put graffiti into academia in the region!) to sound the death knell of it (such as here).
This weekend someone sprayed "Mai 68 Decembre 2018" on the arc de triomphe in France, and one can see the anger and rebellion in it. I actually am proud to have seen the documentary of "68" in its pre-release version which centers around the social movements which emerged that year (text: Patrick Rotman, direction: Patrick Barberis) and if this documentary shows anything it's that all social movements which started that year ended up as enormous fiascos.
Still, a good graffiti belted from the heart is a good graffiti belted from the heart.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Lebanese brag as Emirates passport scores first in the world.

So congratulations to the Emiratis - their passport scored first in the world granting them visa-free to 167 countries. But wait, who's bragging? The Lebanese of course. We always do, even when are in the current situation where our economy is gasping on straws, where the country is at a political standstill, where we need a visa to go the bathroom, where politicians are still trying to eat the cake not realizing there is no more cake to eat, and so on.