Thursday, July 18, 2024

Kipling buy one, give one - CSI at its most logical

Don't believe Instagram, Lebanon is still in the doldrums. Situation is incredibly dire still and the real statistics on the ground are as alarming as ever. Enter Kipling - in this very very challenging ambiance to parents who will be faced with exorbitant back to school fees (yes, even in governmental schools) Kipling is launching its "buy one donate one". Sure there is a bit of incentive for the donating party as well (15% off and a change to win a Kipling bag) but it has been proven that all altruistic acts have a kernel of selfish element in them. Still, the campaign - co-signed by Holdal (the company that has the Kipling franchise in Lebanon) and Teach For Lebanon - is truly worthy of interest. On the ground, I do hope that many needy students will benefit from this. It is a timely initiative and, as I said, with logical and palpable implications. Do check the link here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Potatoes are more expensive than OOH prices in Lebanon!

Photo credit: Geoana Hobeiche Massabni

"I was told that the price of booking a campaign outdoors is now potatoes" I say.

My friend - who basically runs an agency - answers with "no, potatoes are more expensive! We have booked campaigns that cover the Jounieh-Beirut highway for X". My jaw dropped, I knew the prices were low, very low, but X is unheard of. No wonder agencies are going for their scrapping of the barrel creatively in order to just put anything outdoors. But as I said recently, is this win-win when you are damaging the brand?

The answer is: I don't know. By this I mean - I feel the consumer does not care about the ad to begin with. Stuck in traffic jams people look at their social media messages on their phones, rarely does anyone look up and observe around them. Also, as I said recently about Rifai - as soon as people see the logo, they don't care about the rest of the design. "It's Rifai, I know it, I used to buy it, I can afford the price of this entry-level item from their many products, I am going to buy it again". Will anyone really scrutinize the bag? I sincerely doubt.

All of this seems to be me shooting myself in the foot considering I write about communication at large and advertising specifically. But compare this, to this. Beirut Beer "bil chamset bass mich bil beit" (in the sun but not at home) to Magnum "Find your summer". I have nothing against Beirut Beer, on the contrary, when they found their footing I was really cheerleading for them (here and here), but one thing is sure - that TVC they did does not translate into a billboard. And yet, what do you find on the streets?


With such low prices most brands are throwing creativity out the window, long term consumer investment, anything resembling a strategy, for the sake of these half-baked ads we are seeing. Somehow, I still feel that in the back of the minds of people, they will remember brands that stood out. Right now, in Lebanon though, I am not seeing much of it.

But I still have to buy potatoes for food.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Of Beirut Beer, the end of Euro Cup and summer

Beirut Beer went Euro Cup (here), followed by Almaza (here - in a more complicated effort) and now that the Euro Cup is about to finish, Beirut Beer is at it again. "Euro Cup is about to finish but summer is just starting". Well, I could say "OK, there's a strategy there" but am told Beirut Beer has an ad on Dora which basically means nothing and is not corelated to this effort. Without forgetting this oddity (here). Do note I am trying with all my might to disregard the sexual innuendo in the ad above.

 For some reason I feel many brands just lost the plot and are advertising for the sake of booking panels (and am told OOH companies are more than happy to offer steep discounts just to fill their empty spaces - I do know the prices and they are exceptionally cheap). I don't know if you can call this a win-win situation considering the brands are tanking at making solid impressions.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Rifai Nuts - not just brand extension new packaging too!

I hate it when I am right. A few months ago an agency launched a teaser, I immediately wrote them back saying "so at 1 minute 28 seconds is your concept, a good one" - few days later when the revealer came guess what was the concept?... Another story a friend showed me an ad and told me "this is influenced by this ad", and I said "no, this is influence by this other ad" - when the friend saw my reference he was gob smacked! You see my reasoning was simple the creative director behind the ad worked at a specific agency which did the reference ad so he simply copied it. And so on and so forth, so yesterday when I spoke about Rifai having a brand extension (here) I was waiting for the other shoe to drop... The new packaging.

And here we are, 8 new varieties and mixes in a new packaging. Note that the logo was revamped when the business was sold (the Swedish arm was sold long ago, and now came the Lebanese one about 2 years ago). Anyhow, the packaging is nice and clean. Not sure consumers even look at the bags as long as the logo is there. But still, an effort was made to present a unified look for everything - a bit more "new" than the older bags. Now, all that silly copy on the ad could have been left out, because seriously, who cares?

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Rifai Nuts goes for brand extension with butters

My first reflex was... What? Then I thought - wait a minute they could be on to something here. Rifai known "passion for nuts since 1948" (apparently this is their signature) is going brand extension with nut butter. As I said, it took me a bit aback but then again there is logic to it. After all, Rifai stores do not only sell their inhouse brand (you can go from regular to ultra upscale), but also majors "gourmet" accoutrements - sweets of many kinds, etc... So going for nut butter, especially when it is claimed to be associated with such a renowned brand is not too far of a stretch (available in almond, pistachio and peanut butter). Also "no additives, plastic free, reusable jar, 20 gram protein per 100 grams, no oil" or so says the small animated ad online (here). Interestingly these come with a line "spread summer joy" - mind you the "spread" (for butter as a double-entendre has been done before) but interesting these are labelled as "summer products" (whereas peanut butter is an all-year long thing in the United States).

Friday, July 5, 2024

Almaza stresses Lebanese identity

Photo credit Nibal Hadchiti Dfouni

So Almaza is pulling on up! Their newest efforts center around their identity. Mind you the trick has been played long ago when Almaza was with a different agency (لبنانيه وشايفة حالها - Lebanese and proud of it). But that was probably in the mid 1990s. Anyhow, Almaza played the trick of how words are said in different language - which is common on Instagram, in English (Beer) in French (Biere) in Lebanon (Almaza). As I said this is current on Instagram where Lebanese always have a different way of saying words. And yes, Almaza could be the first name to come to mind in Lebanon when mentioning beer.

Now the second ad is a bit less obvious - "despite is all, Lebanon is Almaza" (Almaza means diamond in case you did not know in Arabic). 

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Elevate - Mall ad on a higher level

So Elevate is not joking. Apparently they have a mall campaign that prepares you for the USJ medical entrance exam. The idea - which apparently comes from Puffer Studios which has just been established and comes out swinging - is simple "when in doubt count on us". Remember what I said recently about Massaya? (Here). Once you have a strong original concept all else falls in line. So now that "when in doubt" was found, the rest - a pixelized tooth, pen, camera, apple (there is one about a bag as well) just came out naturally. See? It i snot difficult to make a good campaign when the backbone is there.

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Epica Awards announces its yearly early bird with bold BETC campaign

David Droga, Greg Hahn, Susan Credle and Chaka Sobhani are just four of the iconic creatives who don’t stand a chance of being on the Epica Awards jury, as a new call for entries campaign by BETC explains. The campaign, devised by BETC creatives Abi Stephenson, Matt Jones and Anthony Tavares, and creatively directed by Nicholas Bakshi, takes a cheeky jab at revered industry figures to underline the fact that the Epica Awards are judged by journalists – not creatives. Epica has just opened for 2024 entries.
Mark Tungate, editorial director of the Epica Awards added that Epica often receives calls from creatives who’d like to serve on its jury. But the jury is composed of editors and senior reporters from leading trade titles around the world, as well as specialist publications in categories like automotive, luxury and visual effects. This enables it to remain objective and free of industry politics.

Recently an industry creative heavyweight contacted me and asked how to be part of the Epica jury, I had the glee of telling him he does not make the cut due to his background. The Epica Awards are open for Early Bird entries until September 1, with a discount of 200 euros. The regular entry period is from September 2 until October 11.

Parallel by Parazar - this is how to do it

Considering am seeing too much idiocy as of late (if Crepaway was not the bottom, then Bar Tartine could be) please meet - belatedly - Parallel by Parazar (see their introductory reel here, influenced by some Bauhaus principles). First the name - Parazar (by Azar) is one of the leading regional and by extenso international wedding and event photographers. And at this point they have too much experience and material not to delve into advertising and film production ergo the "Parallel" (compare to Parazar and label this under names-I-wish-I-came-up-with). The logo? Pure minimalist perfection. Again people, one does not need to be a Cannes award-winning ad (and you know I came to disdain those - here).

But here's a plot twist! We have a name, positioning, introductory reel all geared to serve the original brand and its derivative. We have some calm and collected communication, which goes beyond "hype" (a diplomatic name for idiocy) and which centers around a clear and focused concept. To be honest, I am not even sure I want more from a communication campaign.

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Massaya - a solid concept for a lovely ad

Dear brands doing idiotic work that makes no sense. Please look at Massaya! All it takes is a solid concept and the rest takes care of itself. The concept you ask? 1/3 Arak 2/3 water - which is the ideal glass calibration. Once you have this product-related concept all else falls into place. 1/3 blaming, 2/3 kissing. 1/3 lunch 2/3 farniente. 1/3 land 2/3 know-how. Then the line "kesna" (salute!). Again, it does not take much to do a wonderful product-related ad instead of dipping everything into idiotic "creativity". Please see the ad here.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Bar Tartine - the new usual

I said it before and will say it again - either ads are getting very smart or am getting dumb (or both). Take Bar Tartine - they have a new ad (here).  Now, try as I might I couldn't make "creative" sense of it. Apparently it is for the new menu. But things get south with the ad itself - meet Steph, the snoozer. She needs three different alarms to wake up, when she does, she arranges her hair, and applies lipstick, applies lipstick, applies lipstick, applies lipstick (am not inventing this, applying lipstick take like 4 shots) the last time being in front of a fruit dish. That's her "new usual". "Break the routine, try something new" is the caption near the ad. As I said, I am trying to get my head around it - not that the model is not beautiful (she is), but, would that entice me to go try the new menu?

Thursday, June 27, 2024

IAA-Ipsos: Millennials and Gen Z - Insights from Lebanon's Next Generation

IAA and Ipsos have delved into Lebanon's new generations in an exhaustive, very detailed, methodologically-flawless, and well designed and presented study which sweeps across the needs, wants, and behaviors of the millennials (born between 1981-1996) and Gen Z (1997-2012). The study covers many elements - from their work, education, sources of entertainment, salaries, online behavior (hours spent online, methods of shopping, etc...). 

The final output, is actually very believable. I say so because too many studies and statistics are obviously tainted in make-believe and the IAA-Ipsos seems to get results which truly make sense for their prospective audience which eventually are actually advertising/marketing agencies and anyone working in communication.

69% of the sample whose average age was 25.5 are still single, 38% are secondary educated, followed closely with 35% who have a bachelor's degree (logical, Lebanon still enjoys a university-aspirational education despite the drop in level of said universities), half are paid in USD, also almost half chose their careers based on financial considerations, however 72% are not working in the field they majored in which in extenso means that also half of them would change the careers they work in (interestingly, based on financial considerations as a motive). 73% are not interested in studying abroad (however among the 27% interested only 18% are working on it) with France leading the pack as a potential destination for studying.

51% would want to work abroad (obviously more in the Gen Z than millenials) with UAE being the choice (much more than any other destination) with respondents being swayed with higher salaries and benefits. 

The study extensively covers AI, internet access and use, favorite apps, social media notifications, impact of social media on wellbeing, communication choices and technology's influence on relations, television viewing habits and multi-screen usage habits, radio listening trends and shifting habits, entertainment preferences and frequency, online shopping habits and preferences (with some major findings in there), drivers of online shopping and preferred methods of payment (again, ad agencies might really look closely into these sections) in addition to features/issues, online security and grocery shopping preferences, delivery apps and user experience (again, ad agencies might look into all these, the whole let's-drop-a-bucket-to-the-vendor-downstairs no longer works!) and app choices (for food delivery).

Any communication, marketing, advertising agency should run to buy a copy of the study. And yes, some results are predictable but other are so totally "Lebanese" they would make any international executive/creative worth their salt stop dead in their track if handing any advertising or marketing in Lebanon.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Almaza is now on board of the UEFA Euro train

Beirut Beer did it (here). Now it is the turn of Almaza. Both went with local expressions - albeit on two different routes. Almaza additionally collaborated with Farixtube - whose instagram (here) labels him as "7th runner up Mr. Ghazir 2023". Among the expressions "Lebanon is playing!" "I only watch the finals" "I do not watch football" "I do not let a match pass me by" - all these on limited edition bottles adorned with special caps - so this is not only an advertising but also a marketing/production joint venture. This is the second heavy push from Almaza (here) and somehow puts it back on the track where it used to be - well, almost.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Ksara - Father's Day

There hasn't been much creative buzz around Father's Day this year (IPT being an exception here). Sure there has been the usual greetings with some brand logo attached. In comes Ksara with a very low key but quite smart iteration. "Raised to be your favorite" - OK, we all agree parents have a favorite child (any parent who does not concede to this is lying!) and what do you do with a child? (OK, no smarty pants answers!). You "raise" it. Now, what do you do with a glass of wine? You... Raise it as well. How smart is this? Very indeed. Happy Father's Day to one and all (yes, even from non-favorite kids who'll be brooding on a wine glass this evening after gifting their father a tie!). 

Doozy from Arope - pay as you drive

Well, here's a solution to but-I-only-had-salad-why-should-I-pay-equally-to-someone-who-had-a-steak-at-the-table when the restaurant bill comes. Simple - Doozy, from Arope insurance, made it a point that you pay as much as you drive. Simple, "il fallait y penser" as they say in French. All right, I am not familiar with the nitty gritty details of the offer or if there are any hidden or extra or flat fees. But the whole idea is very palatable actually and it does make sense.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Beirut Beer - UEFA Euro

So Beirut Beer just went full UEFA Euro football.... The angle is this, "the game is European, the cheering is Lebanese" and the concept is extended towards local expressions - with explanation in tow. Purely slang, only understood by the Lebanese, which make little or no sense to other - specifically European - nations. Now, let's be honest this is not like "earth-shattering" but the ad is nice in its own perspective, and yes, people do drink beer extensively while cheering their favorite football team (and in case you are not aware, Germany, Brazil (which of course have no team playing in the UEFA Euro games), Italy, and even France have very sizable fans among the Lebanese population leading to some very ugly scenes). You can enjoy the ad here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Chateau Ksara - plot twist: Screw caps

File under - why-didn't-they-think-about-it-sooner... Ksara is now offering screw cap opening! Granted Gris de Gris is not their top of line or anything, but when you are on the beach, do you really want a top-notch wine as the taste mingles with either sea salt or pool chlore additives? But still, the idea is not without merit because honestly, do you go to the sea with a wine-bottle opener? I guess not - so voila, full marks.... 

Tinol - goes with two different concepts billed as one.

Tinol Paints is going on two different axes - one is totally summerish the other is source of color. In their own words for the first: "Embrace the vibrant hues of summer with Tinol Paints, the ultimate source of color! From beachy blues to fiery sunsets, bring the warmth of summer into your spaces. Tinol, the source of limitless color inspiration!" In my own words for the second - I love how the paint spills on that Dora building which eventually joins the original paint, incredible positioning. The pots spilling from the unipoles though are a more confusing. Both are dubbed "source of color". But conceptually I feel like these are two separate campaigns - one is certainly summer-geared, the other is more what the original concept was.

To go back to the billboards, well, one cannot accuse them of not translating that visually as the reference to sun and horizon is immediately recognizable in the visual - translated in three different colors (only two shown above). The campaign is everywhere mind you on the streets and it does attract the eye. Frankly one feels smart looking at it because one immediately says "oh I got it!".  As I said it's the other media use that is more confusing - the unipoles. Just to be clear, the ads seem visually connected, but it does feel two campaigns rolled into one.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Cannes ya man Cannes: story of a man who no longer believes in the Cannes Lions

Kan ya man kan - there was, there was not. So start all fairy tales in the Arabic languages.

And the wordplay seems so fitting for the Cannes Lions festival. First a disclaimer, no I was never at Cannes Lions, and no I have never won anything at Cannes Lions, but just like lottery one cannot win without applying so I was never in an agency that applied anything for the Cannes festival, ergo never won. So what am I harping about?

Well, this comes from the mouth of a man whose agency is so incredibly highly decorated in whatever festival you can think of, and yet he once confided into me say "these days anyone can go to Cannes and win a trophy. There are too many categories to count, too many subcategories, too many this and that, honestly it is not even worth it any longer. Back in the day, there were - what? Three categories?" and remember this is the man whose agency used to sweep the board back in the day (and still does).

Now, as I said, I have no dog in the fight so what the hell am I ranting about? Am ranting about the whole let's-meet-at-the-carlton, am ranting about the uncreatives (apparently it is not even a word!), am ranting about how exhausting it is to be a judge in a real festival (I am one at the Epica Awards and trust me this is no picnic in the park), I am talking about the machinations and what not between jurors, am talking about current editions of the festival awarding ads which are total and complete rip-offs of ads that already won at the same festival years ago, about all these "activations" and very specific events (I have read so many unbelievable "results" from campaigns in their dossiers to make you faint! One local campaign claimed it added female MP by 600% - as in, really?) and the list goes on. 

I think the whole thing turned into a gigantic circus. And an unfunny one at that. 

Siad pest control, because surprises are startling

Well, the other day I asked a friend politely "how are you?" and his answer was "nothing new". To which I said "well, that's good news, because whenever there's something new, it's always a bad surprise". Which brings us to Siad - pest control. "Enough startling surprises" - referring to unwelcome pests. Actually, the ad does make you look and the line is too easy to understand as you drive by. So it is an ad that works, because the line is short, easy, memorable and does refer to the product in question. And yes, you can see the spider (itsy bitsy) and the expression of the woman. I said it before, easy does it in advertising.