Saturday, December 21, 2019

Marie Kondo and the advertising industry in Lebanon today.

Card found in Amsterdam in 2000
As I said earlier, there are simply no new ads in town - billboards are simply covered in white paper (only one place is advertising its end of year party, and Cablevsion has a get one gift one and that's it). Yet, for a long time there was this law about the limiting of haphazard use of public places to advertise (tree trunks, walls, illegal banners), now it's fixed. The city looks orderly, tame - I swear I saw a billboard cut off and only the two iron stands supporting it still standing.
Christmas is notoriously a consumerist frenzy, however this year, it is dipped in a strong malaise - the banking issues, the currency nose diving, the political unrest (the perfect storm). Naji Boulos tells me this is the first year since two decades that advertising expenditure will dip below 100 million Dollars in Lebanon. Many people are paid half salaries, and even then retrieving that money from bank seems a nightmare. In short this is truly a bad time for Lebanon (1,5 people in Lebanon live below the poverty line in Lebanon).
But, what if we are looking at this the wrong way?
Yesterday, I decided to invite my teenage nephew out (nothing fancy, but we both like the place). At the end of the meal he said he was looking for a shirt and that he has the money to pay for it - I suggested to gift it to him. Usually he and his younger brother get money at Christmas so I thought an extra shirt will not break the bank. Yet, as he went into Timberland to see their shirts he fell in love with a boot which I ended up offering him. And then we went to several other stores looking for the elusive shirt which we found and again I paid for.
As we were walking back to his house, with the evening mild we got to talk and I explained how fortunate we are to be able to treat him to such gifts when people are rummaging in the dumpsters in daylight. And despite being a teenager (that age where meh attitude reigns) he showed a lot of maturity understanding the situation.
He thanked me for the gifts and said they would be in lieu of the usual money, and he also told me he was putting aside bags of clothes for an orphanage and asked me if I had anything to donate, I told him I gave everything away to needy people. Still, when I got home I was putting away a new (needed) jumper from the ever wonderful Depot-Vente (thank you Nawal) and keeping in mind I own much less clothing than the average man my age (I was born in 1974, you do the math) several shirts looked at my guiltily.
So - at about 11 P.M. - I decided to go Marie Kondo on the already minimal closet ("if it doesn't spark joy, get rid of it"). Believe it or not - I managed to cull three pairs of shoes (I wore them enough and they were still in good condition), several shirts in pristine condition (one was a little too thick, one a little too tight, one I owned since 2002, and so on!), an unworn pant bought at deep sales (I found a better pair in a lighter hue), a sweater (with a spot only I could see - being OCD I stopped wearing it) a nice scarf (no idea how it got to my closet) all while still having enough clothes to wear.
What if, without advertising, we can still have things to wear an enjoy. What if in this festive period we used the lack of advertising to see where we stand, how much we can donate (I am not dumb I know beneath every altruistic gesture there is a selfish motive - it has been scientifically proven), all while still having enough.
When a teenager can understand this concept, perhaps we can too.