Tuesday, November 5, 2019

So - should brands resume normal advertising in Lebanon?

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
With manifestations still gripping Lebanon - with some saying they are still in full swing while others claiming they diminished in intensity - a question now arises to all advertisers and marketing departments: With the festive season approaching quickly, marking a climax in the ad spend (usually, that is - I am disregarding how weak the Lebanese market is!), the big question mark is - when is it appropriate to advertise again?
On the plus side, ad agencies, and many jobs, be they in the marketing, creative and client side depend on this. Not to mention the work involved in retail, sale, and on the ground. As I said the economy is already too frail, so spending the remainders of the marketing budget would be a serious blow to agencies (and here I am including multinationals) hanging by a thread.
On the downside, there will be serious echoes about: Who cares about brands and ads at a time like this? If they use the "business as usual" they will be accused of sidelining what is happening in the streets ad being tone-deaf to the market. Or worse, if they ride the coattail of the events they will be accused of capitalizing on them and devoiding them of their original rightful tone of voice (it already happened on Instagram where brands were eviscerated because they made the events about them).
The issue is, with schools still closed, with businesses already closing en masse due to several economic factors, with the roads open or closed on either the whims of the people manifesting or as being whispered on that of unseen political parties backing or puppeteering them, what people need is to hang on to that idea that beyond the current events (and here I am not commenting on them) there is a pastiche of life that still exists. For kids to dream of presents, for teenagers and youth to dream about a New Year's eve date, or - as it was the custom in earlier years - for traveling/immigrating members of families to drop by for the festivities from abroad for an interlude or respite and to eat again mom or teta's food.
Put simply: What the country needs more than ever is a semblance of normality.