Monthly Archives: August 2009

Circumstantial marketing in Lebanon

I’ve noticed a big tendency in Lebanon for advertisers, to use and abuse “circumstantial marketing”, as in taking advantage of current events or situations to sell their products.

You remember Johnnie Walker’s famous war commercials

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Or Almaza surfing on the parliamentary elections wave

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Or even Exotica taking advantage of the summer wedding season

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Now, a lot of people have a tendency to condemn this type of exploitation, not in all cases, but whenever it concerns delicate subjects such as natural catastrophes, wars, or celebrities’ deaths for example.

For the sake of my following arguments, note that I am not one of these people. I consider that as long as the brand has an already established image, or in the case of Almaza, when “circumstantial” becomes a brand element, and when the ad is created with taste, isn’t offensive to any of the directly concerned parties, and most importantly, as long as it finds a clear, logical, creative link to your product, slogan, logo or any other element of your brand, exploiting current events is acceptable and often generates some of the most creative work we’ve seen. Proof is the VW example in France, and as mentioned above, the brilliant Johnnie Walker war ads.

However, when it is used solely for lack of brains in the creative’s head, when an event is exploited simply because it is current and attracts attention, without even bothering to link it to your brand or product in any way… it leads to mediocre work as is the case with this year’s palm of mediocrity: the unmissable Kassatly Chtaura Buzz campaign.

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Beyond the fact that they’re exploiting a world icon’s death to sell their product, (which, to the extent of my knowledge hasn’t been done, and wouldn’t be done by any other brand worldwide) and that (let’s face it) the subtlety of the allusion is most probably lost on a big chunk of their target segment, the media space budget allocated on this is ridiculous (if you’ve been in Lebanon in the past weeks, anywhere from Tripoli to Saida, you’ve been bombarded with this atrocity), you’d think they could’ve spent quarter this budget on a creative with a brain. I like to hope the result would’ve been more honorable

Proof that some advertisers in Lebanon are still a few miles behind…

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Lebanese media and their old ball and chain

It’s funny (or rather sad actually). On my way back from Beirut, I had started working on writing a post about the evolving media landscape in Lebanon and the middle east, based on my observations of Lebanese channels mostly and more specifically, an LBC program “ahmar bel khatt el aarid” (the red line), on which I witnessed a fully veiled woman, wearing the burqa, discussing on cable TV (across all Arab countries, notably), her sexual experience with her former husband, and more specifically the frustration she endured for years, because of the husband’s premature ejaculation problem, and his unwillingness to even discuss the issue throughout the years. She was reciting her story in the same casualness she would’ve discussed cooking recipes. I was really amazed (surprised), to see such an evolution of morals in Lebanon. I was naturally aware the evolution wasn’t as marking in other Arab countries but was pleasantly surprised to see this did not stop LBC from tackling such issues.

I had to abandon the article halfway through though, as new information emerged in the media.

Mazen Abdel Jawad, a Saudi citizen, was arrested a few days ago in Saudi, and is currently waiting for trial and sentence, on the basis of the interview he gave LBC and the “documentary” they shot about him, which was broadcast on that same show, and in which he “bragged” about his sexual exploits and Bluetooth pick-up techniques (In Saudi, as coed contact in public is absolutely prohibited, young people communicate from a distance in malls or other public places through the Bluetooth function of their mobile phones, in order to get potential “dates”).

Here’s the video (sorry for the lack of subtitles…)

Not only did the participant get sanctioned, a couple of days ago, Saudi minister of information, Abdel Rahman al-Hazzaa announced the utter closing down of LBC offices in Ryad as the broadcast was judged inacceptable.

Substantially, this doesn’t really change the core of the changing media landscape in Lebanon, however, for a station like LBC, which for years, has been sort of the most viewed Arab channel in the gulf and Arab countries, you can’t help but wonder, at which rate exactly is evolution going to take place?

When you know that most GCC (gulf cooperation council) countries-based channels, censor everything down to a kiss on the lips in any content they broadcast, and ban any channel on which they don’t have a right of censorship. When you know that on Arab subtitles of American movies, “Oh my God” is no longer translated as “Ya ilahi’ because it is judged “anti-religious” to be bringing up the divine’s name all too often, especially when it’s brought up by strippers, or loose cheerleaders, you can’t help but wonder, will our tendency to “open mindedness” and playing down the importance of taboo issues impose that same tendency on the rest, or are the Lebanese media constantly going to be dragging the weight of cultural and moral censure from neighboring countries…?

Just a thought…

Intro

Seen through the objective point of view, and the necessary detachment of two Lebanese “marketers” residing in Paris, this blog aims at analyzing societal aspects of the Lebanese and Beiruti youth, through a decryption of what we like to call the society’s “showcase”, mainly the media, the entertainment and marketing industries, the artists, the cultural arena, and more broadly all happenings worthy of discussion within fields that, too often, stand in the shadow of the over-exposed political landscape.