Thursday, August 4, 2022

Army Day ads proved how bad the situation is in Lebanon when it comes to communication

I am still reeling at the Army Day ads. But perhaps I should not be, it was all too predictable.

I previously wrote about 27 atrocious ads for Army Day (here) well, make that 36 (there's still more but again arranging them in squares of 9 gives a neat number). Just to be clear, I have nothing against kitsch. Kitsch is defined as something "considered to be in poor taste but appreciated in an ironic or knowing way" - well, not be stereotypical but think of all those over-the-top decors from Bollywood, or these trucks carrying odd decorations in the driving cabins and so on and so forth. You know, put simply, kitsch is something that is so ugly it becomes beautiful.

The problems in the ads above that they stopped at the level of ugly.

You name it and it doesn't work. Design that is supposed to function but does not, copy that is supposed to be witty but is idiotic, product placement that is supposed to be interesting but turns out overriding on the event, ads that should not have existed but do.

Who is to blame? 

The clients? For ordering such ads. For approving them. 

But they need to remain visible and what is a better time than the Army Day for their brand to be seen. And as I explained earlier (here) - their budgets are so tight that they need to cut corners when any corner can be cut.

The designers? For doing such sophomoric work.

But they need to eat and pay their bills, be they freelancers or in agencies. Most of the time their salary is just pittance as either clients are too stingy or go for the cheapest offer no matter the quality of the result.

The public?

But they are uneducated, and all they do is just put 🔥 emojis on Facebook or Instagram posts by brands as they scroll aimlessly on their phones to fill the boredom.

Surely, all of them are at fault, individually and in a combined way. But all of them are relying and feeding on each other opportunistically - no one is demanding a better ad because no such ads are supplied, and no one is supplying better ads because everyone is content with the mediocrity they are being served. 

So it becomes a vicious circle. With most talents having left the country - understandably so - and with the few remaining here working on gulf accounts from the Beirut agencies, and as mentioned above - with everyone trying to squeeze the money on all levels, the only people available are basically third-rate talents, producing mediocre ideas with silly copywriting. Mostly concept-less ads which think of themselves as too right-on-target. 

Remember what I said above about kitsch? Had these ads been kitschy they'd have been in on the joke themselves. They would have known they're bad - and purposefully so - and therefore would have stretched the joke as far as it goes. But no! These ads actually think they are smart, they think that those tasteless or previously done gimmicks are actually worthy. In their own scope, they think they produced an cut-rate ad which would would otherwise have cost them a bundle.

Do note, you can produce an exceptional ad for zero money. I can think of this beautiful piece of poetry by Leo Burnett for Exotica (see here). But then again, few have the creative strength to produce such an ad (here's looking at you Bechara Mouzannar and co.). 

And if the Army Day proved anything - apparently such people are now extinct in Lebanon.