Saturday, April 6, 2024

In Lebanon, barely anyone is advertising anymore

In a previous post dated June 22, 2021 I wrote the following story (here):
"You know the old adage, that in times of crisis brands should advertise more. So that when the crisis ends their name would be top of mind for the consumer. In 1989 the father of a friend was working on a very upscale banquet area in a resort in Kaslik. Of course, everyone thought the owner of the resort was bananas. Why invest in such a luxurious thing when the war was raging? Fast forward to 1991 and the war ended, and guess where everyone who was anyone wanted to throw their wedding reception?"
Well, this is indeed a time of crisis in Lebanon and everyone is advertising, not just less, but barely anything. Recently I read this figure that Nestle has seen its sales drop from 300 million to 70 million USD a year in Lebanon. Sure, most of its brands that vanished at the beginning of the crisis - think Nescafe - are back on the market. But people have switched to other brands in the meantime what's with everyone being price sensitive and brand loyalty is no longer a factor in purchase, not to mention local alternatives which popped up in the meantime (this could be debatable though as shown in this previous post - here).
Now, we all know that the advertising landscape is changing globally. But somehow this is more acute in Lebanon as many crises are hitting the market - not just one after the other but in parallel and at the same time. 2023 was supposed to be the beginning of the recovery, but the second half of the year saw a nosedive in activity and that's even before the Gaza events wiped everything starting October.
But the malaise is big. One can feel it. Sure, the situation is "noticeably" better than when the crisis broke in October 2019 when already existing ads lingered for a long time on billboards eventually not to be replaced by anything, and banks - which were injecting massive amounts of money in the advertising sector basically stopped (here). 
But still, TV ads are almost non-existent. Ads for specific occasions - anything from Christmas to Back-To-School are barely there (my round up of Christmas ads last year had a melancholy element to it - here). It's like everyone is trying to wing it and just try to see what sticks - advertising haphazardly, if at all, with no strategy or clear focus behind it.
I clearly remember Army Day in 2018 or so. I honestly had to pick and chose which ads I needed to talk about - and still ended up with around two dozen posts that day. Anyone who is anyone wanted to be part of the fray. With results usually far below what was acceptable. And again, there was a time when ads were plastered on trees or any surface that could handle them. Now OOH companies are begging ad agencies to book their billboards with prices incredibly low (of course, no one admits this publicly but it is true). 
I know I sound pessimistic, and that perhaps as someone is bound to say - everyone went digital anyway (here). But as I asked prior, if they moved digital, where are they? Which brings us to...
In Lebanon, barely anyone is advertising anymore.