Sunday, November 22, 2020

Independence Day, almost without an advertising whimper

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly from the series "No truce in Beirut (only virgins")

And so Independence Day came and went almost without a whimper. Apart from the ads I spoke of yesterday, I saw some posted here and there but nothing to write (home) about. The projected number that advertising will fall by 90% this year was obviously optimistic (Naji Boulos who came up with the number corrected it in July to 20 million, and that was before the August 4 explosion). The banking issues and the multitude of ways of presenting bills to clients only exacerbated the situation (this includes anyone who still takes contracts priced at 1500 to the Dollar, or those who accept Lebanese Pounds, or a mixture of Pounds and Lollars, or any combination thereof), without mentioning recruiters trying to snatch local creative talents for, literally, pennies under the guise of "fresh Dollars". Add to it the cost of reconstruction that fell on agencies following the Beirut explosion and you have the recipe of a total disaster. 

Notice I did not even mention Corona, which, despite a major spike in cases, still does not factor in (though technically we are on lockdown). Agencies within international networks are managing pan-Gulf accounts, independent ones are hanging by a thread, some migrated to other countries, others are still here but still unable to reopen their offices. On average, I speak of 40 ads on my blog during events such as Independence Day (from a much bigger pool I archive), this year companies almost did not bother. 

No one is to blame though. The public fed up, the economy imploded, the banks are laughing all the way to the bank (yes, I notice the irony of the expression), the mood is somber and morose. Beirut, even pre-lockdown (yet post-explosion) is a ghost town. Major shopping streets are empty, both from shops and shoppers.

All this, when Lebanese are even wondering what "independence" means. Log on to Twitter, follow the tag, and discover the schizophrenia of a country with multiple identities, affiliations, each antagonistic to the other. So here we are, a nation just like the puzzle above (made from two criss-cross puzzle maps of Lebanon found in a junk shop), we are unable to disengage, yet when the puzzle is put together it makes no sense.