My Life in Ads with Jihad Ramadan
Posted on October 29, 2016 | By Rik Corijn

Jihad Ramadan, Creative Director at Y&R Advertising Beirut, reaches deep into the most profound recesses of his mind and takes us through a select number of advertisements that counted throughout his career.

 

The AD that got me into advertising

Yes, Abou Fouad 

My example is a bit older, from the early 70s. It’s very local, for a multipurpose detergent called YES, starring Abou Fouad. It was the first ad to open my eyes. I wonder … if we would do the same thing, what would it be like? Society has changed, behaviours have changed. The style of advertising has also changed. Yet for any creative in Lebanon, this is how everything started. A lot of modern Egyptian commercials are still done exactly the same way. The acting, the cast is all it takes to make a popular commercial. 
Somewhere there’s a human, universal truth about how things work. You’ll always need somebody to give you advice. This is somehow the role of advertising. I listen to it as advice. Less and less people are listening to advertising because they are listening to the advice of other people sharing their experiences. Social media allows people to do their own, authentic advertising. When they comment, they either put up a brand or kill it.

 

My first real AD

I’m too old to remember. I think … (long pause) … most probably it was something done for Saudi Telecom (STC) in Riyadh. Even if I find it in my head, it won’t look good any more because we’re always unsatisfied. At least I am. I always tell myself: it could have been much better if I had the time, the money, a better client … Maybe also if I had a better understanding of what was happening around me in the world. I’m sure I’m also to blame if something wasn’t perfect. And ads are never perfect. It’s good when you see mistakes. I hate people who think they’ve seen it all and think they’re the best in the world. We all make mistakes. We can all do better if we’re more focused.

 

My big bang AD

JWT 'Brand Essence'

This one won a Lynx for Direct Marketing & Promotion. We advertised our agency-- at the time, JWT-- in a Technology & Marketing fair. We participated in a booth. I wanted it to have the concept of handmade perfume. You know, in Saudi Arabia they have this culture of making their own perfumes. So I proposed to sell our services as if we were selling brand essences: to find for each client, according to the vision and the values of his brand, the equivalent in scent. How would his brand smell like? We had all the essences you could find in a traditional perfume shop. If you told me that your brand consisted of 40% innovation, 20% tradition, 30% know-how and 10% wit, then I would follow this dosage, mix this perfume and give you the essence of your brand. With of course, a brochure of JWT service (smiles). It was extremely successful and grabbed a lot of attention. Because we managed to do something that was culturally insightful. That was the breakthrough. It’s extremely difficult for foreigners in Saudi. Even if we’re Arabs, we’re extremely different.

 

My dearest AD

Gandour Unica ad 2013

This ad was made for Unica, a very well known chocolate brand that exists in Lebanon since the 60s. It has the collective memory of a country. It went through a lot in the last 50 years, but it’s still there. It’s still in the buying habits of all Lebanese families. Once I came back from the Gulf, I had the opportunity to work on the return of this brand. I felt it was a big privilege. It’s happy nostalgia, going through souvenirs. It resonated with everybody’s memories. It was a big hit, even commercially. We went out of stock. We were producing 4 times more to satisfy the demand. It’s nice when you do something you’re happy with, also gives results commercially. After all, we do advertising for a commercial purpose and not for the beauty of it. 

 

My Renaissance AD

Gandour Mme Khass

 

I thought I was more on the corporate, serious side of advertising. And then I discovered I could also bring something more lighthearted, more humouristic and still be very efficient for a brand. It was for Gandour cooking oil, which is a very difficult category. I played it completely out of the box and it paid off well. There are two ads. Two ladies - totally obsessed with their healthy diet - are facing total temptation when they see something really tasty. These commercials had an extremely positive echo. Especially the one with the lettuce. Everyone at the time was talking about Madame Khass - “Mrs Lettuce.” It’s ‘smartly’ sarcastic, like the real Lebanese humour.

 

The AD that never was

We do one like every couple of weeks—(If only ‘they’ were open to more daring ideas). Actually, I can’t pick a real one. Every creative has a drawer full of them. 

 

The AD I wish I had on my showreel

A lot of award shows leave you with that frustration: “I could have done that.” Not the big ads, not the ones that require millions or big brands. More the touchy things. For example, I can immediately remember two of them.

One for water in Africa. A lady walked the Paris marathon with a sign on her head. That’s it. You can’t go simpler than this … and more emotional, shocking and humane. I like goodvertising—advertising that does service for humanity. It’s not always the case. 

Water for Africa

 

Another one is the Honey Maid ad from 2014. They did a campaign for turning hate into love. It’s a beautiful initiative that shows you that you can do advertising in so many alternative ways. It’s good, this way we end the interview with love.

Honey Maid ‘Love’