Sunday, January 23, 2022

Lebanon: January advertising blues goes overdrive

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

It is not secret that January is a slump in terms of advertising expenditure. After the Christmas extravaganza and before the budgets are set for the new year, January is a limbo, it has always been. But in Lebanon the January slump went on overdrive. On the billboards, I saw no news ads all - there was a few remnants of a mall announcing Christmas activities, and one billboard for the end of year party at a hotel. But otherwise nothing new.

And not just the billboards, with inflation soaring and devaluation hitting hard, consumers have gone very low key trying to save money - when usual go to brands costing triple than other new comers to the market, the choice is very clear. Interestingly some Lebanese brands are making a killing - such as Sanita whose locally-manufactured products are sweeping the market with detergents, glass cleaners, tissue papers, and a whole other categories of household items offer relatively cheaper options to budget tight households.

What is called "outlet stores" are flooding the market - shops that sell overstock, second hand, or thrift are two a penny on Instagram. The presence of locally produced me-too such as the new Danway Spread which aims to give Lebanese a compensation of the imported Nutella are now sweeping the shelves.

Still, ArabAd produced last month's issue focused on local agencies, and by God, it read like a manifesto of optimism and - God help us - "resilience" (a word I now despair when hearing!). Everyone was so very steadfast when frankly the pie has shrunk so much is almost barely exists. Yet, everyone knows that to regulate the rentier economy we were in, we had to reduce imports drastically and increase local product which we seem to be doing by hook or by crook.

Perhaps it did take a shift in attitude and mentality from the usual uppity stand and the new middle class that was created out of thin air (and other people's money it seems!). No more going twice to Turkey per year and no more new cars and clothes worn once. Suddenly, it seems people have awaken to reality mode.

And the January slump is too real.