Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Will the 2022 numbers be better than 2021 for Lebanon when it comes to ad spend?

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

The 2021 numbers were very, very dismal (here).

The official 4.5 USD/per person - a negligible spend if there was ever one - has been watered down to 2.5 USD/per person according to the always rational Naji Boulos. His figures make more sense truth be told than the official 4.5. The billboards are a clear indicator - campaigns last year spent months and months being hanged on the OOH (Out of Home) panels without being changed. This year - there were elections. The parliamentary ones. Yay? Well, sort of - apart from the Lebanese Forces spending 13 million Dollars on a (widely mocked) campaign (here), the spending by political parties was way less than the usual projected figures.

Many political parties are now pariahs internationally (or by their usual patrons from the outside), so the usual financial lifeline was not extended to them. Another reason is that what's with the elections happening on time was hanging by a thread many parties refrained from spending until sure the elections were actually a done deal (so investment in ads started very late). Also, the 2019 "revolution" saw politicians and political parties under a very bad light, so spewing messages glorifying those parties or politicians was not exactly seen as good tactics (oddly, the results of the elections basically brought back the same people who thought they were to be crushed, and the Lebanese Forces investment brought only a dismal gain politically).

In short, the elections were not exactly what should have been a financial gain for everyone involved including - but not limited to - advertising agencies (here) as it was obvious that this time around, and again to save budget and money, a lot of the work seems to have been done in-house (meaning inside the political parties' machinery).

And now what? Back to school came and went with basically little to tell, Independence Day judging from last year was basically little to write home about, and of course then comes the holiday ads (but am discounting end-of-year parties as restaurants and hotels stopped hiring top-tier artists who are seeing their fortunes elsewhere - much in-demand singer Elissa is celebrating New Year's Even in Saudi Arabia this year it seems).

Everything is always an "opinion" rather than a fact. There are a lot of optimists in the scene, and some are more rational (such as myself). Certainly, we all miss the times when we had to pick and choose the ads we reviewed or put on our publications when now there are too little to pick from. Or that perhaps most times we need to track them down on social media rather than outdoor spaces. After the many ads that resorted to illustration and animation to cut down costs - a technique many a company used last year - there is a slight return to live shoots even if of course everyone is trying to cap budgets (the Bellvie ad is a good example - here). 

Well, they say that such crises separate "the men from the boys" (is this a mysogynistic saying?) - then later, hopefully not much later, a new scene will emerge. A leaner, stronger one.