Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rami el Khoury proves me wrong (And I like it :) )...

Hello Tarek,
I saw you blogging about Panalol and linking it to something that was done in 2004... I just wanted to let you know that Panalol was an idea I participated in creating, and back in 2004, i was still at school and it's the first time i see the one about strepsils, maybe the one who did it forgot about it... and in the blog you said that we're promoting a TV and a political party using medecine, well the first thing i thought about while making this thing work is fun, it's not about Otv, it's about a show becoming a chill pill on a Sunday night in this fucked up country... everyone needs a Panalol :) no politics, just a laughing out loud program. oh and concerning aspirine, it was done too... (attached). Cheers!!!!
(Bold letters my addition - thanks Rami for proving me wrong...)

Take two of these and call me in the morning

Photo credit for PanaLOL: Marylin Daibes
For Strepsils: Myself - take from page 97 of my book "Archewallogy"
So the paranoid android blogger who has so much time on his hands that he is an "air breather" and "rose picker". So that same blogger finds connections in seemingly unconnected ads. So I was wondering, after the now famous case of "J'Ose" is this another undeclared "recycling" of talent?
Exhibit A: The new ad for "LOL" program on Otv (we by now know which agency is behind it). It depicts a mock "panadol" box.
Exhibit B: An old ad for the Free Patriotic Movement (again, we have established who is the creative behind it - I might be wrong, but assumption proves logical until proven otherwise) for the boycott of the municipal elections in Beirut (poster dates back to 2004) which is a box of "Strepsils" (used for sore throats) - with a very smart line that goes "Ma tbe7 sawtak 3al fadi" (which means "do not waste your ballot" and "do not put strain on your voice for not valid reason" since "sawt" means both ballot and voice" all at once.
Using medicines in ads to promote a political party and a television station associated with the said party by - what I assume is the SAME creative - is a little disturbing.....
Since Strepsils and Panadol are now both taken, I think I need an Aspirin.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just because we are nationalists doesn't mean we're not racists....

Photo credit: Nabil Kaakoush
Well, the new campaign for the Ghandour "tarboush" (or fez) is out... It goes, "everyone has already wore it" or "everyone has tried it before" (Mere2 3a ras el kel). Ghandour launched a competition a few years ago that two students from Notre Dame de Jamhour won to rembrand what we called "ras el abed" (Negro head - yes, with all the racist implications particularly that abed also means slave). Well, the rebranding campaign did not work, as we still call it... Ras el abed. When I saw those cookies (chocolate cones with white cream inside) in a supermarket in Slovenia I shamefully told my hosts what we call them here and so at the cashier Ana said, "It's OK, I will pay for the "Indian heads" myself... That's how we call them here you know." I wonder what "tarboush" means in Slovenian. - Roba Al-Assi on bringing marketeers together.

In an exclusive interview with Beirut/NTSC Roba Al-Assi, Communities manager at, reveals why all marketeers should flock to the upcoming main online destination for everyone in the communication industry.

What is the site and why would it be of interest to the marketing community in the region?

A member of will gain deeper, and broader knowledge of what they do. They will make stronger connections, and they’ll be able to brand themselves as a professional within their industry. It provides the opportunity to increase knowledge base, to deeply understand the relevant workplace ecosystem in our region, as well as to become familiar with the leaders.  We made as accommodating as possible for a community of marketing professionals; visually, feature-wise, and strategically. I mean, an accountant will probably not enjoy the shock of red! :)
However, each of the communities is completely open. If someone in the finance community is interested in branding, he or she is free to join to learn more. This person can come and ask questions, he or she can come and say that the marketing industry is doing everything wrong, or maybe even talk about how they want to change fields.
At the core, each community is about interest levels. You could be a student trying to figure out what you want to major in, or you could be the CEO of an organization looking to brand your business amongst the young generation of marketers. You could be a web developer looking to learn more about marketing, and you join to read news and articles, find tips, use tools, ask questions, and meet other people. You could be a sales person and join the marketing community because you have a product you could aim at them, like some market analysis tool.

What does Bayt have to do with it, and what do the quizzes tell about one's self?

Bayt Communities will be leveraging the 10+ years worth of experience that has in the region, and users will have the benefit of being able to use their registration details to jumpstart their adventure with Bayt Communities. That’s where the interaction ends. Beyond that, Bayt Communities is a standalone business. Capitalizing on's ten years of experience, we have crafted a Career Analysis that enables users to measure where they are in their careers when compared to their peers. We also have quizzes, often of a more fun nature.

The website contains several articles by people from the industry, how do you pick those articles and who can contribute?

Basically, we have two sections with content on
1. We have "Articles and News", which is three-fold:
a) Exclusive articles for
b) Handpicked articles by our editor from around the Web (link curation)
c) News (RSS feeds of our favorite marketing websites).
Anyone can write for us here! And we are happy to feature posts from around the Web, so if you ever have a great post on your own blog worth sharing with our marketeers, please let me know :) We will link to you and reference you of course.
2. We have the ThoughtLeaders Section, with the CEOs of the top marketing agencies in the Arab world. The ThoughtLeader Section is a little complex, as we have a long list of variables that go into choosing who our leaders are. This includes position, how prestigious the organization they work at is, and years of experience.
As for the topics, we like hearing about personal experiences, perspectives on branding, and so on in the region. We want to provide relevant and interesting content that gets our readers both saying, "YAY, that's going to be so relevant to my work" or "HA! That's awesome".

Where does the online community fall in this?

We’re bringing together like-minded individuals. We’re creating key unique content that will really help them in their professional lives. We’re seeding conversations and we’re ensuring that the people in an environment where the conversations will be relevant to their immediate needs.
It’s not about coming and sharing your weekend photos, it’s not about presenting yourself to be hired by someone, it’s not about coming here and connecting to someone who you can sell something to. It’s 100 times more than that. It’s about increasing your personal net worth as a professional in your industry.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hal ya"j'ose" haza? (is this permissible?)

Yesterday, I saw the recruitement ad for Clementine - the one that goes "Osez" but with a Celementine instead of an O - there was an air of familiarity to it that I couldn't pinpoint, until (just like the correct answers of the math quizz in high school) the correct answer came to me late at night: It resembled the "J'Ose et je dis la verite" of the Otv launch campaign.
Let us now compare and contrast:
- Otv (or Orange Tv) campaign was done by Sami Saab for a TV station known to be the official media arm of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) headed by General Michel Aoun.
- Clementine, where Sami Saab is "partenaire chargĂ© de la creation", has a CEO named Claudine Aoun - General Michel Aoun's daughter (and is up to my knowledge co-owner).
Now, since one cannot "steal" from himself, I cannot say that the Clementine ad is "stolen" (since both were done by Sami), so what do you call a creative recycling his own porfolio? (Answers appreciated!!!)
But before dismissing this as "silly" concept (mind you I loved the Otv ad and I blogged about it) I started thinking, maybe "J'Ose" will go into history as "the concept of the century" (but the century is still young so there is still time to outbeat such a gem)... Simply because it is such an "adaptable" concept one can sell to many clients!
Let us review the evidence, because "J'Ose" in Arabic is one of the most versatile words:
- J'Ose means "walnut" - so when Clementine will scoop off the account for Castania or Al Rifai (both in the business of nuts and kernels) I can already see the selling line "J'Ose w lawz" (Walnuts and almonds) - a perfect fit!
- J'Ose also means "a pair of" - so when Optique et Vision (one of the leading shops in eyecare and eyeglasses) will defect from their current agency to become a Clementine client they will be offered the unbeatable positioning of "J'ose 3waynet" (a pair of eyeglasses) - mind you the same line can be offered to Ray Ban when they will want to expand from their current "Never Hide" slogan.
- J"Ose in addition stands for "husband" - so in 2013 (the date for the next parliamentary elections) Clementine will take care of the FPM campaign, they can attack their rivals, the Lebanese Forces (LF) by saying "Sethrida (Geagea - wife of Samir (the head of the executive committee of the LF)) 3laya hounik J'Ose" which means "Sethrida Geagea has one hell of a nasty husband"...
Of course, my own layout for these ads is pathetic, but at least I tried to visually demonstrate how "viable" the concept is and how easily it flies from one client to the next :)
The ONLY good news in this "recycling" (a very diplomatic term) is this: the "O" is shrinking - first it was a big Orange, then a smaller Clementine, and with lots of hope and prayer it might eventually... (I hesitate to put the correct verb here)
So tell me, "Hal ya"J'Ose" haza?" (yajoz means "permissible") - so "is this permissible?"

PS: I am posting this on a Friday and will one check back my mail on Tuesday, so if you want to debate by posting comments, remember that I do not moderate them, which means decency is required and no cursing. Also I appreciate anyone who tweets this, posts it on Facebook or whatever all else.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Strange days (and not by The Doors)

It appears some strange things are happening in the market these days. First, we have animated chicken courtesy of "Tanmia" - it appeas they don't "come empty handed" because there is an offer that they come with vegetables. Next the Red Cross, in need of volunteers played the line "m3al2in fit" which means "they're stuck on you" (for the gear) but also doubles as "we are counting on you" to show how much this is some sort of a second skin for you. Now, I am not sure if anyone wants to be taken for a coat-hanger while doing such a noble job (what next, a doormat?)... And if strangeness did not end, Teenayel is launching a new "super natural" drink for the kids (during recess, it will give you energy to beat the crap out of that idiot who bothered you in class). Surprisingly, the one shown here with the kid in the Zorro mask works exceptionally well (the one with the girl who turns into a fairy is a bit off the mark though).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Twafiq Yusuf Awwad: The "things" that were being milled in Beirut

I am often asked what books one has to read to know Beirut. My top three are (in no perticlar order): "Koolaids" by Rabih Alameddine, "Beirut, fragments" by Jean Said Makdissi and (though I have never read the English version) "Death in Beirut" by Tawfiq Yusuf `Awwad. To be perfectly honest, I think the English title of the translation is pretty corny, because the Arabic title is "the mills of Beirut" referring to a particular line where a character says "these are the mills of Beirut" and the other replies "and there is nothing being milled". But there were a lot of "things" being milled, not the least of whom were Tamima Nassour, Zannoub Ibrahim, Miss Mary Abi Khalil, Rose El Khoury..
Never mind the official synopsis of the book, the story and the incidents are merely a backdrop in the post-1967 war Lebanon, in the conditions or women (the as much as now), about the Palestinian problem and most importantly in the effect it would have on a fragile Lebanon, on the male identity, and all the lurking of the Lebanese scene of sex, debauchery and double standards. The books was first published in 1973, two years before the official onset of the war, but by then Beirut was looking for an excuse to boil and explode.
When I heard the news that the author was killed in 1989 in a bomb that hit his hour during what was known as "Liberation war", I paid little attention to it. Eventually, I now realize that the Lebanese war killed the man who plainly foresaw its coming.
In the version of the book that I own, there is a notice that says that the book was picked up by the Unesco as part of its masterpieces that illustrate certain periods of time. So if you want to know how Beirut became the war-inflamed city, I cannot but recommend (at least the Arabic version of) "Tawahin Beirut."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Everyday miracles

An well, so all of have reasons to moan and groan in our everyday lives. Elsewhere you can read in boring details about the rescue operations of the Chilean miners (media outlets these days tend to make everything "sensational" so eventually nothing remains interesting). But for me, the event was very close to another one, the one about the Uruguyan rugby team whose flight crashed in the Andes. Actually, I was so happy to have been proven right when I read about how the Urguayan survivors actually met with the kin of the trapped Chilean miners. But in this increasingly mediatized world, it is not an atonishement that Mario Sepulveda, one of the trapped miners, delivered the signature quote: "I was with God and with the devil, and God took me" (one can see the title of the forthcoming book already).
The Andes survivors, I suppose, were more modest by comaprison, because the major saying then was Nandon Parrado's: "I come from a plane that fell in the mountains." (in a note delivered to an Peruvian peasant).
Here's my own two bits, a small email after I sent an inquiry to one of the survivors: "Thanks for your email and for your nice words, you enter and you have information you could use. My best wishes Tintin" - it's not much I know. But I have archived this mail in my gmail inbox.
So we all have reasons to moan and groan in our lives. But, well, that was a nice miracle to come our way.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Q: What are you looking at? A: At me (amongst others)!

Newsflash: I shall be at EM Chill in Mar Mkhael this Saturday as part of the "what are you looking at?" event orchestrated by Jackson Allers - to give a glimpse of "Archewallogy" since the event centers around graffit and stencil art and all that. Frankly I wonder how one concept travelled so fluidly in academic circles, in street art circles, and even in prsons and other assorted places. Somehow it always does the trick! While I am in the wondering mood, it is also interesting for me to become a "reference" in local street art when the only time I held a spray can was for show effect (i.e. to take a photo and actually circulate it among friends!)... Anyhow, it seems I shall be there - hoping you might be there too!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nucular vs Nuclear.

Photo credit: BBC
So "nucular" is the way George W. Bush pronounces it. Nuclear is the way the rest of humanity does (Including Iran). Ahmadinejad is coming to town - "you better watch out, you better not run" - OK, so that was for Santa Claus. Well the whole city is now branded - with the Farsi translation of "welcome" - and with people disagreeing and saying "no welcome to wilayat al fakih". As long as we agree to disagree peacefully, all will be well!.... So between "Iran" and "I-Ran" where do you stand?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Slippery when... Tefal!

Straight from the desk of Farah Samman at Lowe Pimo comes this incredibly effective ambient media ad for Tefal. I saw it and almost slipped my own chair! Could the chair have been made of Tefal? :) ... Splendidly effective and utterly unique in a world of copycats!... (or get SLASHED)

The 501st post is not about Levi's!... But wait, if you thought TSC having a seperate cashier for alcohol (apparently after boycott overturned the original decision of not selling it outright) or Dekane opening in Achrafieh and not stocking alcohol was a scandal... Now try this for size!
Campbell Soup launched its Halal line in Canada 8 months ago. But super hardline media pundits have seized this (only now) and have gotten away with it claiming that the Islamic association that endorses the Halal stamp is Hamas-linked and Wahhabite funded.
The Campbell site reads as follows:
"There are a variety of Campbell Canada products that are Halal-certified so you have more food options to enjoy with your friends and family. These products are certified by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the largest non-profit, religious, educational, and non-political Islamic organization in North America. ISNA's Halal Certification Program was established in conjunction with professionals in the field of Islamic foods and nutrition, and with Islamic scholars. The program includes the review of ingredients, formulas, manufacturing and sanitation processes."
On the other hand, the right-wing people read as follows:
"This is yet another example of just how dangerous creeping shariah is to Western Civilization, Democracy and all freedom loving peoples. There are stages to the islamization of non-islamic countries. [...] This is just another way that terrorism and it's sponsors are insinuating themselves into our culture, Terrorists are NOT freedom fighters they are murderous thugs and I will not pay money for soup or any other product that supports, aids or abetts their tactics. Hope someone puts a list out of all of Campbell's affiliates." (this quote comes from the facebook group for boycotting Campbell Soup cans).
Somewhere, I think Andy Warhol is laughing in his grave.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

500th POST

Photo credit: Fiat 500 (cinquecento) by Herbert Bos

The counter of the dashboard on my blogger page could not be wrong, it marks 500 (FIVE ZERO ZERO). Yes, so here we are – welcome to the 500th post of Beirut/NTSC, a blog that started on January 10th 2007 (so this is not an anniversary, just a commemoration) to fill in the gap in the market in archiving and analyzing the political ads. Bit by bit, it grew to comment on all ads and eventually on the pulse of the city itself and the many changes it offers through the eyes of the media and advertising.
I suppose this is one of those times where some “retrospective introspective” is called upon. I just hope it will not end up as some boring navel-gazing that is of no relevance to you. But the question begs itself: What happened during those 500 posts?
Well, first I shall spare you the statistics but according to google, my blog receives 6,000 visitors a month, I shall let other people brag about how they are “the most read blog in Lebanon” but I can safely assume that “6,000 costumers cannot be wrong” (to misquote McDonald’s). As I said, I shall not resort to statistics the way drunkards use lamp posts, for the form rather than for their function, so I shall leave it at that.
Another thing that has happened is that I see have grown friends. Some of these people I knew before albeit marginally, some I met through the blog, some I still have to meet, but it is quite comforting to know that a lot of people actually give a damn whether the blog has been updated or not, or what I actually think about this or that. Also, there have been a few people who have helped me collect photos which were missing, so I am grateful for their help too (you know who you are, I am not naming!)
Financially, this blog never made me direct money. When I subscribed to google adsense (or rather adnonsense) I only cultivate 1,04 USD which is pathetic. I never accepted a bribe from any ad agency and never put a press release (only once or twice for humanitarian causes) or any paid material. Of course, I did go to dinners and events organized by agencies, but this does not mean I sold out. To quote French journalist David Pujadas, who said something to the effect of “it is not dining with politicians that is corrupt, that’s just networking, the hypocrisy is the small friendly gestures and pats in the back before going to the studio to butcher the guest.”
I also love the comments people leave and am grateful for them (apart from the usual suspects again, you know who you are, I specifically mention “anonymous” – this guy seems to post regularly, I just wish I can meet him!). Naturally, I am aware that a lot of those comments are left by agencies who simply spit out the creative rationale in defense of an ad I must have slaughtered. Oh, and thanks for the suggestion of me opening an agency called “Shammim hawa wou attiff ward” (literally “air breather and rose picker” which both double as “time waster.” I shall consider the option seriously).
I read this sentence in a book called “Poets and murder” by Robert van Gulik “all good men have both enemies and friends, no use trying to be everyone’s friend, gets you nowhere.”Well, I am not implying that I am a “good man” but I also know that I have cultivated a set of enemies all across the board, and I am under the impression that some agencies play darts with my face as target during their lunch break and that I must have some voodoo doll in my honor somewhere.
At this stage, it is difficult for me to separate Beirut/NTSC from the other side-activities that have been going on such as the books and the videos which I have published since January 2009 (there was a book published long before in 2003 but the readership of NTSC is not aware of it), and which grown to have a life or their own. I am exceptionally thankful to all the people who collaborated on these side projects and who have donated their immense talents in exchange for meager amounts of money (as I was sponsoring everything on my own), but your contribution is highly appreciated (again, no names, you are too many and too talented for a listing).
I must remind you that I am still not on facebook neither on twitter, and this is the only place you will find me. Not that I am under the illusion that you are looking for me of course. As we say in Arabic when one is celebrating “akbel el miyye” (may you live to a hundred), in this case “akbel el alf” (may we celebrate the 1000th post).
As a parting note for this scriptum, and I must admit I never thought I’d ever quote ABBA but here goes, “It's funny but I didn’t know I was living without aim/The day before you came.”


OK, now that I caught your attention (like a cheap tabloid) let me tell you what REALLY happened. I suppose that the Beirut/NTSC readership is aware of the wonderful documentary "12 angry Lebanese" by Zeina Daccache (if you are not aware of it, please look it up, buy the DVD, go watch the documentary at Metropolis cinema and then come back!) - so after seeing it I felt compelled to express my kudos to Zeina.
Eventually with met with her and Catharsis assistant director to discuss what can be done and we settled on the idea of presenting "Archewallogy" in a conference to the inmates under the rationale that - if they cannot come to the city, the city will come to them. But he who says "archewallogy" also says Ashekman, so my friend Omar Kabbani (half of the duo - as Mohammed was out of the country) was also scheduled to perform.
Which brings us to Saturday October 2nd - I will spare you the red tape, bureaucracy, and technical glitches - and move straight to the juicy bit of what was one of the most emotionally loaded days to my recent memory. Omar was at his performing best singing to the guys some of Ashekman's major hits, little did we know that the prison had its own band of acappella rappers who stunned us with two songs "3afwan minnak ya mas2oul" (I am sorry to tell you Mr. official) and "7akem 3arabi" (Arab ruler) who rival in their wit and intelligence anything written by Omar Zeenni.
Omar, who for all the time we have known each other never uttered any dirty word eloquently summed it up by saying to Mohammad who wrote them "what you have here is something akhou charmouta" - I could not agree more (I am still humming the tunes of the songs in my mind since Saturday!).
Well, naturally, both acts were tough to follow, but still - I was there to deliver a conference and so I did... I guess I "held the audience captive" (sorry for the lame joke!) but truly, there I was, telling the guys about a city they have not set a foot in for a long, long time - explaining to them what the scribbles of the walls mean, what changed politically and socially.
Some 90 minutes later - yes, it was the longest "archewallogy" conference I have given - the inmates were given papers to draw on them as if they were "walls". I am sad that I cannot display the result as it still needs to be cleared before being released, but what I saw on these papers made me realized that the archewallogy project has reached a peak - after all, no one knows the value of walls more than someone who lives between then 24/7.
As I hope that in one way or another I can keep collaborating with Catharsis, I think I am a better person after such a day.

Warning hazard: Arak makes you steal ads.

Let us get this correctly: When Andre Rizk came up with "Arak Fakra: Mtallat, baladi, assil" he was not inventing gunpowder, but like a good copywriter, he was listening to what people say and giving it back to them creatively. "Mtallat" means tripple distilled, "baladi" means homemade, and "assil" means authentic. All of these already existed in the lexicon of Arak prior to Rizk. His genius was to get them lined up and organized.
Now switch to the Mouktar Arak whose ads read "baladi, mtallat, assil" so basically he flipped the words but kept them the same. Nevermind, it IS still blatant theft (even if Rizk did not invent the words, having this close association with them gives Fakra something of a "copyright" to them - at least when present together).

Solet Tapis: Inspiration strikes in odd places.

Maybe I am simply imagining the parallelism, but I have this strong hunch that the new Solet Tapis ad (signed Clementine) maybe originated in this little joint (now closed) next to the Ministry of Foreign affairs called "Teta w baneta" (grandma and her daughters) while the Solet signs "Teta w sejedeta" (grandma and her rugs). Again, maybe Mustapha from Beirut Spring is right: I take advertising too seriously.