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.