Sunday, September 25, 2022

Almaza is always a summer state of mind

 Almaza is either celebrating "akher iyam el sayfiyi" by Fairouz, or literally disregarding the calendar altogether as they're always in summer mood. Sure we are technically in autumn and the weather is a little - just a little - on the chill side, but then again why not milk the summer till the last drop. Which Almaza is doing anyhow.

Hot on the heels of their mock instagram shot - where everyone seems to be chilling champagne/wine - so why not chill beer instead and forget about the (r)ose - and now there's a "foam party". So there, summer is not a matter of dates but rather of opinions. Interestingly, finding an element in the bottle or the beer and constantly tinkering with it is no mean feat, so credit for Force Majeure agency for doing it.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Chikhani Electric - the gutsiness of a context.

Yes I know, the idea has been done before in many ways. But honestly to suggest this in the Lebanese context deserves praise. All right, the concept is fairly easy what you think the image is, turns out to be another meaning (here is a full campaign which is about the same concept - including an image which includes Recep Tayyip Erdogan fairly similar to the one above). Now, in the Chikhani ad what seems to be an "intimate act" between husband and wife is, when LED light goes on, to be a simple kiss from the mother to her daughter.

As I said, it is the context which gives the ad its strength. Lebanon! Not always a place to easily navigate, one where feathers are easily ruffled, where the society is "a deux vitesses" to put it mildly... 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Tarek Chemaly has a blog - and Frank Sinatra has a cold

Original notes of Gay Talese for "Frank Sinatra has a cold"

Ah... Frank Sinatra has a cold.

Yes, I know for many this is gibberish. But to many of us this is standard journalistic gold. Why? Because it is an exquisite portrait of Frank Sinatra written by Gay Talese... Without actually having access to - Frank Sinatra. Talese, and in extense the publisher of the original piece (namely Esquire), hunted a hundred of people in the orbit of Sinatra, considering Sinatra refused repeatedly to sit down for an interview.

Actually, this introduction proves my point. You see, lately I was researching a project on my own blog, and I fell into a rabbit hole so article after article, post after post, I realized that - OK, fine without having the presumption of comparing myself to Gay Talese - I usually adopt the same technique. I go in tangents, I compare points normally not-very-comparable, join dots which are usually un-joinable, and basically construct facts normally un-constructable to come up with conclusions that actually make sense after getting the reader to accompany in a maze which has a clear and logical exit door.

I once read that the late Andre Leon Talley (long-time editor of Vogue and author among other titles) would be able to know the designers' mood board upon seeing the collection. And again, not to compare myself to him, but every so often I can guess exactly the original thought process that influenced the ad, including - sigh - the ads that influenced the creatives. 

I am not even sure why these thoughts are rushing out of my head and into the screen on this day, but again, having had to read several pieces of mine lately, I realize I used this gimmick often. To roam around the topic as a better way to attack it. Funnily, when I used to teach methodology of research and thesis writing I always used to tell the students "you can't go through the door, go through the window" - meaning if you can't prove your point directly, go around it and prove it obliquely.

Hmmm, apparently doors are often shut in my face. But they often forget about the windows.

And hey, thankfully, Tarek Chemaly has a blog and not a cold - medicine is uber expensive in Lebanon as of late.


Friday, September 16, 2022

Gap and Kanye West break up - on the difficulty of working with "geniuses"

A long long time ago, I was working at a magazine's office, and open on the company's PC among my other files was Meebo. Meebo was a system which allowed you to chat on different systems at once - yahoo, aol, google, etc... Then suddenly a beautiful melody started going. I had no idea from where. Until I noticed the bar at the bottom of my Meebo page which was playing "heartless" by Kanye West.

Now, just to be clear, I am not a big fan of Kanye West (now called Ye), but goes without saying some of his work is really good. I do not own anything he designed (or his label designed) as the "oversized" esthetics do not work for me. I was interested in one of his shoes - the simple Yeezy crepe sneaker in black - but by the time I decided the size was gone.

Ye currently has two major partnerships. One with sporting giant Adidas, the other with struggling retailer Gap. As of today, the Gap went down the drain. Mind you, when Virgil Abloh was appointed as men's designer for Louis Vuitton, Ye was very vocal that the position was originally his. The man who, in a 10-year partnership with Gap, took forever to come up with basic items, apparently thought that a giant like LVMH would appoint him on the cash-cow that Louis Vuitton is which basically produces several collections a year and is a well-oiled easily-running machine.

But if I am writing this, it is because the creative industry is full of people like Ye, who - rightly or wrongly - believe they are geniuses, and who - truth be told - may have been so at some point. Breaking down boundaries and coming up with oblique answers to old questions. Not only have I worked in the creative industry for a very long time, but I also have taught at universities long-enough. Sure, sometimes you spot a talent and you are in awe of their potential. You know that such people are destined for something big - whether inside the confines of the industry or outside of it. A brilliant person I know, after working for a short while in advertising, is now working in mosaics, the result of his work often leaves me short of breath so much it is beautiful.

Am I digressing? No. Honestly I am not. But again, with all due respect for Ye who apparently had a major issue with his former wife Kim Kardashian because in her opening monologue in Saturday Night Live she referred to him as "rapper" (his issue what that he much more than that), sometimes talent has its limits across industries.

Yet a lot of people see themselves as "multi-hyphenate". Ye included. Sure, Ye drives the sales of his items with hype. He has a very loyal audience. Those who can snag his items at retail price often do so just to resell them at - a usually hefty - profit on platforms such as StockX. Now, design-wise are they interesting enough? The Ye-fans seem to think so. Mind you Ye also dabbled in a failed presidential election campaign, wanted to built houses for the homeless (mind you his relationship to the homeless is very muddy, latest example of which is putting his Gap gear in large plastic bag - some referred to them as trash bag while he said they were "construction bags" - and customers had to delve in them the way homeless people pick at garbage bins to be able to shell out the model they wanted and the size they wanted), and many other ventures.

So where does this leave us? It leaves us with students telling me "ma fhemt 3alaye" (you did not understand my concept), when said-concept is either too boring, too lame, too unsellable, or too off-brief. There is a joke about people who overestimate their own talent - "buy them at the price they are worth, and sell them at the price they think think they are worth". Of course, Kanye now has an immense fortune, he is not waiting for my opinion.

But after a failed deal with Nike, a small patch designing shoes for Louis Vuitton, the Pastelle brand which never took off, and now the dead partnership with Gap while his Adidas long-term collaboration hangs by a thread (Ye is diagnosed a manic-depressive or bipolar, so only very recently, within the same outbursts he shot over social media on Gap, he also posted - then erased - many other posts on the Adidas management) one can legitimately wonder if he is an individual worth working with considering how difficult he has proven to be.

As I said, I have encountered such people in the creative industry, the jury is still out on this one. But from all previous experience, and no matter how much money these people have (Ye is one of those) eventually they end up being their worst enemy - sidelining the people who really believed in them, those who nurtured them and wanted to push their talents to the fore.

But then again, "ma fhemt 3laye".

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Almaza wins on the back of Mayyas winning AGT

First they did it here, then Almaza went a bit wobbly here, now they are celebrating the Mayyas win for America's Got Talent season 17 quite appropriately. And no, it is not easy to come up with something creative for each and every occasion (look here). And if I am being harsh on Almaza it is because I honestly understand their new/old strategy now that they moved to Force Majeure - whose creative director Assad Doueihy was behind the initial Intermarkets spark for the brand. Yes, I did say before I'd love them to go back to Arabic instead of English. And despite the missteps, on the whole the strategy works. No mean feat in a market still trying to understand where it is going.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Brands finally come up with unskippable ads.

Can you believe it? Brands have seen the light.

I mean in the immutable world of "storytelling", and these long (very long) and you did not hear it from me boring (very boring), ads which have taken over advertising these last few years - suddenly a shift occurred.

Honestly, it should have happened long ago, but when clients/marketing departments/creatives get stuck on a format, they try not to change and on the contrary double down. Of course, I am referring to the 30 seconds format (which as I implied earlier got much longer due to the storytelling gimmick).

Trust me, this is not gibberish I am trying to make a point. For a long time, "skip ad" - the one that appears at the 5 seconds mark - was the dreaded button that advertisers feared. And indeed, if there was anything people did not want, it is unwanted (haha) ads prior to watching their video on youtube. Am I one of them? (considering I work in advertising and do nothing but analyze ads, the answer will amaze you) Yes, guilty as charged.

Advertiser Rana Najjar overheard her son explaining to his friend what she does, and the verdict was that "she did those ads we skip before watching Super Mario". If this is not the definition of the average consumer, then I wonder what is.

Still, to go back to the beginning, suddenly brands went into the if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them. They are now producing unskippable ads. How you may ask? By doing superior work people do not wish to skip? By being extremely creative and engaging? By developing stories so arresting the viewers want to follow till the end?... 

No, much easier. 

They created 5 seconds ads.

Try to skip those if you can! And guess what, you can't.

Honestly the answer is so evident, as they say in French "il fallait y penser" (one had to just think about it!).

Small update:

It seems this post has caused some confusion considering Geico already did their unskippable ads before (see here). And Toyota has this beautiful gem for Yaris (here). The ads I speak of (Pepsi Max, or Lipton tea as examples) are complete, full ads in 5 seconds. No gimmicks, no twists.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

I am not among The Guardian list of "the world's 50 most powerful blogs" (and that's OK)

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

So The Guardian just issued "the world's 50 most powerful blogs" list (here).

Did I miss my chance for greatness? Well, I did that - long ago. How you may ask? By not accepting to monetize my readership. When blogs where accepting paid posts left and right when blogging was in its infancy in Lebanon (and sort of worldwide), I stuck to my guns and said no clearly (mind you my gripe, which I made clear back then was not that they were accepting paid posts for brands, but rather than the posts were not declared as such leading to the paid posts in question as to be confusing to the reader).

And here we are - in 2022 - where someone who posts an image on Instagram considers themselves as being blogger. From the original pack of all of us who started blogging, only 2 "blogs" survive, the second is just a place to post press releases by brands and an Instagram account. But in terms of those who actually "wrote"/"commented" I am literally, "the last man standing".

Sure when you base your blog on saying things about companies, getting (undeclared) freebies, and all that, then you end up travelling, of course the source material is going to dry up, and as another person said on Twitter "dear bloggers, please remember news agencies still exist". And they do, meaning all those who had a google notification about "Lebanon" and parroted the news, now have vanished.

I think, oddly, this blog has always been "under the radar", I never made any effort to promote it. I think it is is one of those "if you know you know". And thankfully, enough people know. Yes, yes, I said it before several times, that whereas the blog does not cost me "money" it does cost me "time". But it is time I am ready to give out, just to be that dissenting voice who does not copy paste press releases from brands and rather stand aside and say where the flaws of the ads are - or, paradoxically, give accolades where accolades are due.

You know what? I don't want to be on The Guardian's list of the world's 50 most powerful blogs.

Seriously, but next time I am taking some silly campaign down - objectively, with no malice - that same campaign that Marlene/Zeina/Tony/Ali described on Facebook as "yiiii chou hal ebde3" (oh what creativity!) I know I have done my mission right.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

On why I envy Jihad El Hokayem

I envy Jihad El Hokayem....

There I said it.

All right, a small disclosure, I know Jihad personally. On a certain Wednesday night, in the middle of the pandemic, I wrote him a message "you are not my favorite human being tonight" - you see I was helping him fill some very complicated funding papers. But details aside, my admiration for him is boundless. Am serious.

In this wreckage that is Lebanon today, here he is a beacon of positivity - not of naivete - but of hard work, belief, support for the youngsters, and motivation for a new generation. All this anchored in an incredible humility and deep-encrusted values.

It all amazes me. And here he is again, as president of "Rethinking Lebanon" an NGO rooted in the country and focused on the youth, out with a new campaign. Sure, the country is bleeding young people immigrating either for study, or work, or establishing themselves in new cultures and countries throughout the globe. Actually a running joke is that Lebanon's biggest export is "26 year old educated people", and the sad bit is that it is true. 

And he still sees it with a positive eye. He still entices those who left to go "with a mission". Again, what's with all the crises and agitation and issues of the land, he still sees the good thing in anything. Even this, even the mass immigration of the youth of the country, he is still able to spin it under a good light, and make sure they have a "mission" to spread.

I envy Jihad.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

AUB changes its logo - yes, but why?

Every other day I get a notify from AUB - my alma mater - pleading for donations. Understandable considering how the country has totally fallen apart and how university fees have gone completely through the roof. I am not going to go through what helped me then go through the AUB tuition and how these schemes have been scrapped from the university. But suffice to say is that if you want to save money (and ergo not ask for donations from your previous graduates day on day off) it would be nice not to squander - and I am measuring my words - your budget on a logo change.

Why? "let me count the ways" as the poet said. You need to change, your logo on your buildings, stationary, fleet of cars, caps for workers, napkins in the cafeteria, website, digital presence, folders, envelopes, t-shirts, this, that without even counting the original design work fees. 

All this is incredibly costly and... A little pointless. Already there are too many banks, brands, companies who have two or three logos cohabitating in the market together - Zara still has its old logo on many of its shops. 

I see no logic whatsoever in this move, and if there ever was one, definitely not at this time when AUB is claiming to be in financial need.

The reliable Bic pen goes to school

Bic - the brand that gave its name to a full category (like Kleenex or Google or Frigidaire) is actually advertising for back to school. They went very.... matter of fact. If you can "rely" on Bic, then you can actually use it as a support or crutch - ergo the stylish student in her back to school attire leaning on the pen. Well, apparently this is an international positioning for the brand - which also sells lighters, disposible rasors, and perfumes as well. 

Here's a personal story I heard, when Baron Bic (who gave his name to the company) was on cruise on a three-masted schooner, the owner of the schooner in question showed him the prototype of the perfume he was working on (the man in question was a "nose" - i.e. someone who did perfumes for brands) but the originally of the perfume was that it was a roll-on.... Which was the exact idea of a Bic pen! When the baron saw the prototype his reaction was "M*erde!" (Sh*t) because obviously someone in his company should have thought of that.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Puck goes back to school #PucktoSchool

You know how it is, a generation goes back to its first tastes. Puck has entered the Lebanese market for a long time now but what's with the economic crisis hitting - basically all or most households - consumers are refraining from "indulging". But if Puck is still not a leading brand it's not for the lack of trying.

Here they are with a new back to school ad which involves popular actress Liliane Nemri feeding the neighborhood children. The ad as does work - the casting is done right (not easy when children are involved) and you can see it here. Here's the thing too, this year Puck is giving 21 school scholarships to students in Lebanon worth 300 USD each (a healty amount by today's standards!) - see the terms here.

I am usually very cool about hashtags but #PucktoSchool makes a lot of sense!

Now how much will this help Puck gain in the Lebanese market is a different story.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Whatever Almaza is doing make it stop..

Remember when I said that Almaza got its grove back? (here)
I am starting to suspect I have spoken a bit too early. After yesterday's semi-forgivable blunder (here), today comes this.... Apparently there are limited edition bottles of Almaza from "A to Z". Innocent enough until you read it "A toZ"... toz being Arabic for "wouldn't register on my a**". To begin with this is too reminiscent of the Coca-Cola blottle naming thingy (the shareacoke campaign) but done on a budget as only one letter appears on the bottle instead of the more complex whole name. OK, even this could  be swallowed but the "toz"  thingy really takes the cake!  
Look am not asking for a lot, just for them to really watch out what they are doing. 

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Almaza vs Martime Academy - compare and contrast

Remember that beautiful ad by the Maritime Academy? (here)

You don't? Neither does Almaza....

I am not saying it is, I am not saying it isn't. Compare and contrast yourself.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Sandwich w Noss is - actually not funny

Where does one begin?

Over a canned laughter track "television w noss" has a new video for "sandwich w noss" which is an ad for its "starters" namely its hot chicken wings. The video is entitled "the sound of our crispiness gets to Cyprus" which has nothing to do with the images to begin with. So, the "joke" is that the chicken is so hot that the "director" discretely hands the "presenter" (doing a parody of another show) a bottle of water from under the table (yes, very funny - yawn)

Actually, the copy is meh, the delivery annoying, the concept is - deflating. The only thing pseudo funny is the scroller at the bottom of the TV screen "this sentence is superfluous, why are you still reading?".

Actually, this ad is superfluous, why are you still watching?

At your own risk and peril go here.

Friday, August 26, 2022

Banksy makes it to ABC Verdun

Banksy, the artist who is always walking the edge of consumerism and anti-consumerism, capitalism and anti-capitalism, authority and anti-authority all at once has made it to Lebanon.

Where? In some torn down graffitied hangar? Well, no, think again.

"The world of Banksy - the immersive experience" will open at the Art Space at ABC mall in Verdun. A capitalist mecca is there was one. To be honest, the only info I have comes from this link (here). Which indeed sort of showcases the street artist's "greatest hits".

Mind you, I am not against, I mean last time we saw Kaws statues it was when a bank sponsored them at the Beirut Art Fair right bang before the crash came and toppled everything (Kaws statues included). So voila, Banksy is in Lebanon.

For better or for worse. Apparently shredder not included.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Tinol paints - coloring by names (and numbers)

Tinol paints has actually got a campaign going. Truth be told I only saw two visuals, so I am not sure how far and wide this goes. But as I said earlier when you can spot a campaign with just 2-3 billboards when - in the heyday - you needed 600 billboards just to be "visible", then you know how far the mighty have fallen.
So - I saw the "purple" and the "orange" iterations of the campaign. Same idea and executions, the "color" in its specific shade with "you name it" underneath. I am speculating that the line was meant to mean "you name it we have it". 
Technically speaking, the ads are not too creative or too out there, but the interesting bit is that you can spot the campaign from a mile with its ample use of white as a background. Actually, I wonder how they'd do the ad for the "white" paint though (usually the most used color!).

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Hamlet and Lili - Lebanese perfumes show their colors.

If you don't know Lili or Hamlet (well, the other Hamlet that is) then you'd be forgiven for not being in Lebanon in their heyday in the 80s. The two perfumes - which for a long time we were led to believe, like Garconne and Businessman - to be from Paris, are all local products.

And here they are again advertising themselves. Well, Hamlet had a go previously (see here), but now seems - like all perfumes to have calibrated its formula - with "Chromium" (all major houses do this - and I will never forgive Chanel for Egoiste Platinum when the original was this distinctive). Lili also a flagship perfume is now "Lili Aliena" - if this is a nod to Mugler's Alien perfume I know not, but the branding exercise is worthwhile.

Of course, as I said prior (here), the push towards "made in Lebanon" is becoming more palpable. And good for them, as it is - of course - better for the economy.

By the way, I mentionned above that the ads for the perfumes made us think they were made in France, but actually the original Lili ad had such a nugget inside its jingle that we completely missed. "On l'appelait Lili fatale, ses yeux d'opale nous fascinait, et sa fraicheur tres matinale, nous exaltait a l'air du bal".

Yes, I know it's difficult, but - Lili fatale? As in Lili Fattal, Fattal being the producing company and Lili being... And if you think I am imagining this, please check here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Lebanese Forces annual mass ad goes for the jugular

Ah, the Lebanese Forces just got sneaky.

I said it before, these ads (for the annual mass of their martyrs) work for the specific target audience they have in mind (here) and as a full disclosure I myself did an ad for such an event in 2004 (my take was "they did not become martyrs for us to leave our land" - and it was a total smash hit as well). My point is that this year the Lebanese Forces went after their arch-rival the Free Patriotic Movement.

The FPM have been paddling the words "el 3ahd el awi" (the strong mandate) ever since General Michel Aoun was elected president (it is his party after all). But "3ahd" also means "commitment/promise/pledge" by giving their ad the headline "el 3ahd lakoum" (the pledge is for you - note I picked the most fitting translation) the LF really went on to riff to FPM with what they hold dear.

Actually after the risible elections campaign (here) the LF displayed, this a return to form.

Do note that usually in these ads the "visuals" are more generic, in this case it is the sun coming after the dark clouds. Again, something simple and suggestive and easy to swallow for the base.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Climate activism is now down to stunts.

Italy's Ultima Generazione (the last generation) have done it again. After gluing their hands on the Botticelli apparently without ruining the artwork itself as they only glued their hands on the glass (here) now they have glued their hands again on the base of the sculpture Laocoön and His Sons - in the Vatican museum.

In a statement Ultima Generazione (which had banners saying "ultima generazione no gas no carbone" in both "actions") said " “As witnesses of a crisis ignored for decades, we have chosen to draw attention to our message by drawing close to the figure of Laocoön, the seer who suffered extreme repression for having tried to warn his fellow citizens of an impending catastrophe, there will be no open museums, no art, no beauty in a world plagued by the climate and ecological emergency. Drought, floods, fires, pollution and scarcity of resources will take over if radical choices are not made in this regard.”

Add this to Gustav Martner handing back his Cannes Lions award (here) because he had previously won it working for Volkswagen, and well, I do sincerely think that environmental activism is now down to gimmicks and stunts. Sure, there are people (here's looking at you staunch republicans in the US) who deny that the climate is changing despite it happening under our noses.

You know that Andy Warhol saying "in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes", except that between all the stunts happening simultaneously, and what's with everyone vying for our attention at the same time, and everything happening in different sectors and fields (did you know one in three children in Tigray in Ethiopia is malnourished due to war?), the "15 minutes" have dwindled to 15 seconds.

We barely skim through the headlines. Here's a confession, for someone who is an avid reader (my library is about a thousand books strong) who does nothing but read and analyze all day, I have not - repeat, not - read any article about Ukraine and the war there since it started. Am I suffering any direct effects of the war? I think I am - it seems wheat is not reaching us because of this (though with all the machinations and back-deals on high echelons of Lebanese authorities I can never be sure of that).

So why am I not reading about Ukraine? Because in the echelon of problems and issues I face it barely scratches the surface. I keep reading "provocative" titles such as "the horror of being in Bucha" and whereas I sympathize, I also know that atrocities just as bad are happening in Gaza, Palestine. I do read more about Gaza mind you, but again not as before, because once more, I am drowning in problems and eventually I end up truly stretching the limits of my empathy.

In an over-saturated world, our span limit is decreasing and stunts get much less eyeballs and interest than they used to. And yet, the world is full of more and more gimmicks and stunts.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Bechara Abi Younes goes for the presidential elections

OK, first things first: Who is Bechara Abi Younes?

He is an "interior Designer & Chairman of the Environmental Rescue Party; Manager and General Director of a company named Byblos Decor for Construction" per his own words on his Twitter bio. To check up the Environmental Rescue party please go here. Interestingly, Mr. Abi Younes has a website listed on his facebook page (here) which goes by BcharaAbiYounes (here) which mind you has a different spelling of his name, but the website goes nowhere. If you follow the links above you will note that Mr. Abi Younes is not exactly active on social media as they have not been updated for an eternity.

So why am I bringing this up?

Because Mr. Abi Younes has an ad plastered on the road as to him being a presidential candidate in Lebanon (supposedly the elections will happen in September 2022) but as is chances of them happening on that date are slim to none.

Do note, I am not digressing. All this IS confusing.

Why? Because people do not elect their president in Lebanon. Members of the Parliament (elected by people) do. So basically, plastering an ad for your presidential ambitions is a little.... superfluous? Simply because it does not sway your odds one way or the other.

Funnily, long time ago a reporter was talking to Mohammad Raad (who represents the Hezbollah in the parliament) and asked him why not put two candidates on the ballot and the MPs would decide who would win, to which he answered "no, this would become an election".

Actually, here's the rub - there is a fee to get your name posted on the ballot to become an MP. But to become a president all you have to be is a Christian Maronite older than 21. That's it. No money or ballot necessary.

If the above two facts are not the epitome of surrealism I am not sure what is.

In other words, basically MPs know who - after much deliberation and compromise and concessions - the next president is and they just vote "pour la forme". I, to be honest, do not think Mr. Abi Younes is high on the list.

But then again, this is Lebanon, so stranger things have happened. And not just on Netflix.