Social Media Week comes to Beirut!

Following on the great success of Social Media Week February 2011, the next iteration of Social Media Week will again span the globe this September 19-23, 2011, with simultaneous events in cities from all over the world. Confirmed locations include returning cities like Milan, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Bogota, and São Paulo, plus new entrants from Rio de Janeiro, Moscow and now happy to announce BEIRUT and I am thrilled to be part of the organizers.

With each successive iteration, Social Media Week has grown exponentially, leading up to the February 2011 edition, which hosted simultaneous events in nine cities with over 600 events, 30,000 attendees worldwide, and generating more than 300M impressions online, made it the largest distributed conference in the world.

Far more than just a conference, Social Media Week is one of the world’s most unique organized events, providing through a series of interconnected activities across the world a global and local perspective on emerging trends in social & mobile media across all major industries.

Social Media Week Beirut (SMW Beirut) will be organized for the first time in Beirut, brought to you and produced by 90:10 Group Middle East. SMW Beirut is aimed to be a unique and innovative social media week, happening over 5 days, with more than 30 events in different venues in the city, giving access to as large audience as possible, connecting people & content around diverse and rich themes, with speakers and participants from different horizons, bringing to all the learning experiences for a better understanding of social media in each of industry sectors.

SMW Beirut will be as well fun 🙂

Your thoughts, advices, tips and all are more than welcome.
You can follow Social Media Week Beirut on Twitter or on Facebook

Go Beirut!

Bank Med Beirut goes green

More and more companies jump on the trend towards environmentally friendly. Going green is not just a trend of the future. It ‘s just the only option that we survive on our planet.

Environmentally friendly actions don’t have to be large to have an impact. Consistently reducing the amount of energy, water, and paper our businesses use can make a huge difference, both to the environment and to our pocketbooks. There are simple, easy things you can do to go green. How much paper would you save over the course of a year, for instance, if you always ran doublesided copies? A small easy way to go green – but a big result! This is what BankMed is trying to tell us with this campaign.

But are they really going green? It’s a good thing they started to raise awareness for a healthy and clean planet by introducing environmental friendly initiatives Are they offering eco-friendly credit card? Are they launching a complete online-banking service? Or is it greenwashing and the only thing they are trying to do is to promote some sort of nice green corporate image?

What do you think they could do in order to become an eco-friendly bank?

Check out the video. They are part of the “Happy Planet” global campaign made by Impact BBDO Beirut in 2010!

Middle East Edition Of Cosmopolitan to be launched in March 2011

The 62nd edition of Cosmopolitan, is set to launch in the Middle East in March 2011. Looking forward to see what it’s going to be like…

ITP, the Middle East’s leading consumer and business magazine publisher, today announced the launch of Cosmopolitan Middle East. The magazine will join ITP’s growing portfolio of market-leading women’s titles which include Harper’s Bazaar, VIVA, L’Officiel, Ahlan!, Grazia and Shape. The best-selling magazine in its category, Cosmopolitan has 61 international editions, most recently launching in Mongolia. The magazine is published in 32 languages and is distributed in over 100 countries, making it one of the most dynamic brands worldwide according to the press release.

Cosmopolitan Middle East will be aimed at a young, female audience offering its readers information on every aspect of their lives from fashion and beauty, to relationships and romance, the latest on women’s health and well-being as well as what’s happening in pop culture and entertainment. The magazine’s engaging, upbeat and informative tone will resonate with the young women of the region. “The Middle East has one of the youngest populations in the world so introducing a local edition of the world’s best-selling magazines for young women seems an obvious decision. Cosmopolitan is a colossal brand and we are looking forward to launching and developing it in this region” said Walid Akawi, CEO of ITP.

Cosmopolitan Middle East will be published in English-language with an initial print run of 15,000 copies and will be circulated across the GCC and Lebanon, available at all major retail outlets. The Middle East will be the 62nd edition of Cosmopolitan and the 3rd Hearst title that ITP has brought to the region.

Go viral and Keep Lebanon Walking with Johnnie Walker

Have you seen the latest Johnnie Walker campaign in Lebanon? I am sure you all did, at least on Facebook. A great example of how a brand can produce content and go completely viral. Lets have a quick review at the campaign created by Leo Burnett who once again marvels us with their great work.

Today, (almost) all marketers (and therefore advertisers) are seeking to leverage and intensify the reach of their communications by creating ads that become viral even though the viral potential of a campaign is fairly rare.

In fact 4 ingredients are necessary for an ad to become viral:

– The awareness index which is a measure of the engagement potential of a campaign and its connection to the brand, used for a long time y advertisers to predict the success of the TV campaigns

– The buzz which identifies wether an advertisement or a communication campaign is likely to naturally spread or not

– The potential of the featured celebrity and his profile when used in advertising

– The distinction of the campaign and the measure of its originality

Actually, the thing that is great about this campaign is that it generates a great deal of emotions (the music is really great) and raises interest by touching a large audience. Architect Bernard Khoury clearly gives scope and carries the brand message.

The campaign is integrated into many media a part from traditional TV/and press. The website is actually very well conceived since it delivers branded content from one part (videos telling the great stories of Bernard Khoury) and “social” functionalities from another (integration to Twitter and Facebook) to disseminate this content.  The campaign also calls upon user’s imagination in the creation of small sentences in order to “Keep Lebanon Walking”.

The small films are also easy to find on the Youtube dedicated Keep Walking channel which makes it easy to predict the viral success (only it’s just too bad the channel is not branded Johnny Walker)

The last (but not least) thing I would like to point out, is the fact that the concept, as amazing as it is, reminds me of the Journeys campaign launched by Louis Vuitton with ad agency Ogilvy Paris in 2007, one of the greatest campaigns in terms of branded content that simply tells the story and reveals the wonderful journeys of celebrities (such as Catherine Deneuve, André Agassi, Keith Richards and many others…) who made it out there with great achievements.

“Adapt locally and keep Lebanon walking…” 🙂

Advertising in Lebanon: TV remains n.1 and internet is inexistant!

I just came through this article on the Commerce du Levant website about the advertising spending in September 2010 in Lebanon. These expenses are down 8% from August and 4% compared to September 2009. Despite this slight decline, the third quarter was relatively good with an increase of 8%.

OK advertising is still growing, even if it is growing slowly. But the thing that hit me the most is the fact that there is absolutely no spending for advertising on the web or that it is really really insignificant. Check out this repartition:

As I was wondering about the average time that lebanese people spent watching TV, I guess I have the answer to my deep concern. Television takes it all and it is still the number 1 mass media. Will the web ever kill the TV stars?

Throughout the world, the strong growth of the Internet, and the development of its uses, confirms the mass media crisis (for the press and TV in the first place).
More profoundly, the belief in the mainstream media is dramatically affected by a movement that sees the legitimacy of traditional media organizations disintegrated by a permanent suspicion particularly related to a certain political affiliation.

Considering that a mass media (according to Marshall MacLuhan) is characterized by a communication of one-to many and by a one-side message (the public does not interfere with the message vehicle) we can of course question the belonging of the web to the “mass media” category. The web in its core, and thanks to the massive user generated contents created by the audience via blogs, wikis, social networks etc… creates a new situation: the communication pattern which used to be from one to many (vertical) has completely evolved to many-to-many (horizontal).

My main point here is that these new models of direct production of information are drawing an innovative media landscape, and advertising investments should definitely be following this trend.

Ghandour wants us to eat “Tarboush” instead of “Ras El Abed”

I think everyone knows Tarboush… or should I say “Ras el Abed”?

8 years ago, Ghandour, the leading producer of Cocoa based products, Bakery, Confectionery, as well as Food and Beverage items, launched a school contest in Lebanon asking students to propose a new name and a new design for one of their best selling products, the famous “Rass el abed” (“Nigger’s Head” for the English translation). The main challenge was to erase the “racist” overtone of the “abed” part, so people had to propose something significant, catchy and new. And that’s what I did. Actually, me and 5 other random people had the great idea to propose the name “Tarboush”.

Why? First, because of the “approximate” resemblance there is between the tarboush and “Ras el bed” shapes. And second, because of the strong relationship between the word tarboush and what Ras El Abed represents as part of the “Lebanese heritage”. Crunchy on the outside, soft and creamy on the inside, everyone who grew up in Lebanon has tasted this local “delicacy”, or is just addicted to it (yeah I know some people who are and actually, 38,903 people like this on Facebook).

Let’s go back to my story: 2 years after sending my proposition, I received a phone call from someone at Ghandour telling me that my project was selected. They had organized a small gathering, in order to give away the rewards, during which they made it clear that the new product identity will not be adopted directly, but that it would take some time to completely change the identity and that this refurbishment will occur step by step. Fair enough. They didn’t want their customers to get confused with a brand new product, and they didn’t want them to think that Ghandour had abandoned the famous Ras El Abed.

The changes first appeared on the packaging on which they started adding a tarboush, and then, only five years later, they launched a big (?) communication campaign around the new name.

Too slow?   I think that indeed, they could have established a communication plan on a shorter period of time, because I personally can’t wait for the new packaging to be launched.

How much time will it take you to start calling it Tarboush? 🙂

The “new” communication strategies of Lebanese banks…

In retail banking, the communication strategy of credit institutions is facing new challenges. Beyond the cyclical impact of the crisis, new ways to “consume” banking seem to emerge. Lebanese banks should definitely start thinking how to redirect their traditional communication campaigns and tools.

Communication strategies are usually required to follow the development of new technologies that impact the consumers’ behavior. All around the world, it has even become common to use the Internet or mobile phone for banking transactions.

However, in Lebanon, we are still at, lets say, stage 1 (or you can call it web 1), where banks’ certainly do have websites (at least…) but where these websites are definitely in need of some renewal or should I say revitalization. Let’s take a quick look on what is out there:

Remarquable Design on « Microsoft Paint » for SGBL

 

Moderate-purple static inkblot for Byblos Bank

 

Rather kitsch animation and pixelized logo for Crédit Libanais

Strictness and severity for Bank Audi

Kind of appealing and dynamic home-page for FNB

(but don’t bother clicking to see what’s behind the images)

A bit of interactivity but lots of ambition for BLF

(these guys are great: they have even created a Facebook Page, a channel on Youtube and a group on Linkedin and everything is actually linked to their website!! :p )

So even if all the major Lebanese banks have created web portals, they are far (faaaaaaaar) from being present in all territories that new technologies have created. These territories include new audiences generated by social networks that are growing surprisingly.

The challenge for the banking sector lies in the conquest of these new spaces and the seduction of their audiences.

In this context, banks should be wondering about new ways to attract and develop customer’s loyalty. Communication campaigns based on a general message and distributed exclusively through television and advertising are no longer covering the entire customer base and have stopped responding to the changing selection criteria. The « revival », (which is starting to emerge with BLF’s campaign around « Ambitions »), should be structured around 2 main axes:

First, banks should start positioning themselves on the new audiences crossroads that are distinct and separate from traditional media’s audience. Social networks are new contact points banks need to exploit. These channels should be progressively integrated to communication strategies because they allow banks to be visible among a population of Young adults, which is a particularly attractive target for banks. But beyond visibility, these new means of communication offer the opportunity to interact directly with customers.

Secondly, banks should really be thinking about developing real branding strategies, stop acting like companies only and start acting like real « brands ». While they have almost all a very strong reputation, only a few banks have managed to build a strong identity around specific and distinctive attributes easily identifiable by the client. The promotion of a brand is only possible if it is linked with a promise and values that are in line with customer expectations. In this framework, communication actions taken by banks should above all, relay and make the brand promise more credible.

In this era, consumer’s behavior and clients fields of expression have radically changed. So why not use the web to set the tone for a new more collaborative customer relationship?