Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A superhero with a Cappe

The launch of the Cristal Club at the Ecole Superieure de Affaires (ESA) which took place on June 18th was an even that gathered the best and brightest of the advertising industry within a very convivial setting. I must first though mention that the whole enterprise took me by surprise, for the advertising industry I have come to know was based on hypocrite individuals, backstabbing people who wouldn’t miss a chance to play a dirty trick on an opponent – yet the face I witnessed during the event was frankly civilized enough to make me reconsider my positions.


I must at this stage mention Christian Cappe, the CEO of the Cristal Festival Network, who reminded me of the many people whom I see daily opening their facebook accounts at the university lab where I teach and who have nothing to do with their photos (the original being far worse than the photo), except in Cappe’s case the reverse is true. The photos I have found of him over the internet show a very “corporate” side, one that basically says “the photographer made me look nice and cheerful in this”, yet in real life, Cappe is certainly a genuinely upbeat and spreads a very sincere welcoming atmosphere around him.

Not only this, but Cappe could easily be one of the very few people I know who can get away with doing something utterly clumsy (in this case, a miserable English pronounciation) and then even get away with being the butt of their own joke over the clumsy act (he self-ridiculed himself for the afore-mentioned miserable English pronounciation), all without losing face or the respect of the audience which was cheering him all along.

According to Cappe, the aims of the Cristal Club (which is a direct descendant of the Cristal Festival) are to: “prolong networking between members all year-long; rhythm the year through meetings bringing together creatives, agency leaders and clients; allow partners to increase their visibility during the year; ease contacts within the same community of interests, thanks to social networks and the festival website which will propose a dedicated section for members, offer high-level conferences held by keynote speakers on today’s hot topics; and highlight Arabic creativity and cultural specificities in advertising.”

The Cristal Club shall be composed of two colleges, “the creative college and the production college” the former including agencies and clients in the region, the second producers, TV producers and technical industries. One of the major aims would be to “expand the young directors’ recruitment for the Young Directors Forum including a final selection by Mid October 2010 judged by regional producers and TV producers.”

On that last point and under the emblem of “Love advertising and share it” many creatives took the stage to showcase their work including agencies: B, JWT, Leo Burnett, Impact BBDO and Grey Worldwide. Most of the work displayed was a major hit and has left high visibility among the community (specifically La France Au Liban ads by B and Khidi Kasra for women’s empowerment by Leo Burnett), but seeing these works again was a pure delight specifically in an ambiance that was truly more camaraderie than cut-throat.

It is quite difficult to have a few moments alone with Cappe, considering that not only was he the main attraction of the day, but also the large number of people who count among his “friends” (supposedly real friends rather than an extension of some abstract social network), but still at the end of the lunch Beirut/NTSC challenged Cappe on some of his bon enfant notions regarding the business at large. For Cappe, it turns out, “advertising is a vehicle for a whole culture. Think L’Oreal or McDonald’s they do much more than to sell goods.” Unfortunately, the sentence was interrupted repeatedly by well-wishers and friends.

All right, but the whole industry in the region is used to treat festivals as some gigantic exchange of favors (give me this award and I will give you the other) so how does the Cristal Festival differ in that perspective, “we brought it the clients to remove that first degree that creatives have. Clients tend to judge a lot more than just the creativity.” Cappe goes on saying: “Actually, I think we should go back to basics – to the fundamentals.” More interruption is recorded at this stage.”

“So where was I? Oh, the fundmanetals. OK, an ad should be useful, beautiful, truthful and socially relevant. As simple as that. It should say something to the consumer, should be well-done and produced, and then should not be telling lies and eventually ought to be make sense to him within his local context.”

I try to convince Cappe at this stage that I have first-hand knowledge of an advertising industry in the region that thrives on cheating, throat-cutting, pitiful practices and what not. Cappe remains undeterred of his own vision: “But you saw the whole ambiance today. Everyone was friendly and chummy and so there could be a chance for these people to be out on an honest competition. Actually, I think that the quasi majority of advertising members in the industry do it just for the love of it.” And then he added “personellement, j’adore!” (personally I just love it).

However making a financial sense of loving advertising is not an easy thing, just ask this blogger who is earning nothing out of his own endeavor. Fishing for some tips from Cappe, he humbly says “it is all the product of this girl’s genius.” The girl in question is Lara Krumholz, the business development manager of Cristal Festival SA, “she’s the one that made it all happen.” So the passion alone doesn’t quite cut it, I volunteer. “Well, nothing happens without passion, it keeps you moving through the ups and downs and yes, there are down periods you know!”

Realizing at this stage that the material I had was substantial enough for a blog post, I took my camera out and snapped a photo of Cappe which again made him seem human, genuine and affable. The next thing I knew was him pulling me close, with my arm outstretched, and I snapped another one of the two of us – him still human, genuine and affable, me equal to my own self – and then he says “this is the one you should use on the blog.” Who am I to argue?
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