Alain Shoucair, Regional Executive Creative Director at Drive Dentsu recalls the ads that mattered throughout his long and established career.
The AD that got me into advertising
As far I can remember, there was not ONE ad. Like you see one ad and you go: “I wanna do advertising.” I already had an interest when I was at school. I even got this small book, like the Marabou Guide of Advertising, a kind of “Orientation Professionnelle” (laughs). There was also Culture Pub (a French TV programme on advertising). I was always watching it. If I really have to name one ad, I’ll go for Hamlet cigars. “Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet.” There was a whole series, like the Photo Booth and the guy at the airport losing his luggage. I still remember those ads; they really marked me when I was at school.
My first real AD
I was with Saatchi, working on Slim Sunflower Oil. Back in the days, TV commercials were the “propriété réservée” of the creative director. I was just an art director. Normally, they would just ask: what do you wanna do for print? And the creative director would take care of the film. I thought: why not have a chef talking about the product while the bottle keeps turning into the same direction; the way sunflowers follow the sun. Everybody went: Wow, what a cool idea! And suddenly it was my project, with me going to the shoot. The production was super low budget. Now that I look back at it, it was terrible. But the idea still rocks.
My Big Bang AD
There’s a bit of a paradox here. My best ad isn’t really an ad. It was a project for Gebran Tueni. The thinking was totally different. There was no brief. Everybody was asked to come up with ideas. We just wanted something to remember the assassination of Gebran Tueni. I came up with this story. It was very emotional. Everybody cried during the presentation. There were zero comments, zero changes. It was actually the first viral ad. All the Lebanese expats wanted to see it. Like I’ve said, if you come to think about it, it’s not even an ad. There’s no product. There’s just the idea of freedom of speech.
The AD that never was
I can tell you about an ad we did for Skin Net that was shot, but never aired. It was actually my first film with Grey. That ad was something! I still don’t understand how we managed. It was back-to-back with another production. We travelled to Milan, shot with foreign director, foreign crew… It was totally awesome. And then… it never ran. Until today, I still don’t understand. Why did we shoot, why did we travel? Everybody loved the film. I guess there was a problem with the media budget.
My Renaissance Ad
De Longhi ‘Invisible Mold’
Renaissance is a big word, but the Humidity ad introduced different times and different thinking. It was more of an installation. At the time, I just came back from Cannes. I had attended this talk by JR, the famous French photographer who takes art to the streets. He travels the world to photograph people. Then he puts up huge pictures in poor neighbourhoods. In India, he used glue to make portraits. The glue was catching dust, revealing the actual portrays. It’s like using something nearly invisible (dust) to make something visible. Very inspiring. I thought: wouldn’t it be cool to make an outdoor that showed the real effect of humidity? The idea was simple, the production something else. We discovered a special ink that reacted to water. We had to bring it from Germany and do a lot of tests. The difficulty is to make the outdoor opaque, yet the message should appear instantly. We printed the thing. It was huge! We installed it in Sin el-Fil and filmed it in time-lapse. Will it work? We prayed for rain. When it finally did, we couldn’t believe it. It worked perfectly.
The AD I wish I had on my showreel
When you have the feeling the idea is so simple that you wonder, “how come I haven’t thought of it before”, you know it’s a great ad. Those are the ads we all wish we had in our portfolio. I can give you a hundred examples. If I really had to choose one, I’ll go for ‘The Man your Man could smell like’ from Old Spice. What I find brilliant about this ad - other than the fact it’s hilarious and brilliantly executed - is the breakthrough strategic thinking behind it: addressing women to sell a man’s product, which has been translated by the creative team into this stupidly simple out-of-the-box idea that became an overnight success.