Ramzi Raad: Get Up and Let Us Count Our Blessings
Posted on October 16, 2019 | By Ramzi Raad

Ramzi Raad, Group Chairman TBWA/Raad wants us to rejoice over the fact that we are living in a free country, which is no mean feat in comparison to neighboring countries. While he shares his take on the macro environment, enumerates the manifold pioneering roles the country has played in the development of the Arab media scene, he insists that ad players should shake away the grumbling defeatist mentality and stand together to revive Lebanon's glory and continue to lead the Arab Media and ad industry.

Lebanese advertising and media people are lucky for having succeeded to grow our market during the past eight months (January – August) to exceed the one billion dollars level ($1,025,060,892 to be exact). While the Arab country that has five times the population of Lebanon, and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) 13 times that of ours – as most of you should have guessed by now, this comparison is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, - has managed to push its advertising market size to almost half the size of ours ($578,144,505).

If we carry on comparing, within our region, we find out that Qatar’s advertising market has only reached $163,837,423, which is only 16% of the Lebanese ad market size.

To put matters in the right perspective, we have to keep in mind that Qatar is one of the wealthiest countries in the world and is a country where the share of the national (Qatari) citizen - out of his country’s GDP - has reached $134,620 millions this year, according to the ‘World Atlas’.

Kuwait – another oil rich Arab country - has managed to develop its advertising market to 32.7% that of Lebanon ($336,158,692) during the same 2019 period.

In fact, the smallest gap - in ad market size - exists between Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates where Dubai has managed to push the advertising growth to $986,915,518. This being the UAE only media investment, despite the fact that statistics of recent years have combined Pan Arab Media expenditure with the UAE numbers, as most of the Pan Arab Media groups have moved to Dubai Media City and to twofour54-Abu Dhabi Media Free Zone. Certainly, this is one of the opportunities that we Lebanese had allowed to slip between our fingers, as we were the innovators of the Pan Arab Media concept and the earliest base for most regional media, be it TV, Print or Video (advertising on pre-recorded video tapes, which used to be very popular amongst Saudi viewers when the advertising break on Saudi TV ran for more than 40 minutes). Pan Arab Media investment – for the period January to August 2019 - reached $4,119,249,639, which if added to the UAE, will make it the largest, entity, by far.

The fact that we Lebanese have always been the media and advertising innovators of the region, is a reality, which our young generation advertising and media practitioners need to know and always remember. It would be a great shame if they grow only aware of the recession period realities and remain ignorant of the industry’s evolvement over the years. Lebanon despite being one of the smallest economies in the region has been the cradle of creativity and professional communication since the late 40s. The Lebanese developed their own advertising market – to start with – and made it the largest; before the rich oil markets - of the GCC - featured on the world business map.

The fact that we Lebanese have always been the media and advertising innovators of the region, is a reality, which our young generation advertising and media practitioners need to know and always remember.

Agencies like Intermarkets, Publi-Graphics, Éclair Kazan, Syco Promotec, and Fortune Promoseven, are the ones who evolved and got married to the global networks surviving to be the region’s top players today, although most of these brands has ceased to exist. Not to forget Arab Advertising, MADCO, and Publirizk; who have acted as active players – as well -  in building the first layer of this corner stone, at the early stage.

Young Lebanese ad women and men ought to appreciate the pioneering role their country played in developing the Arab media scene, as well.

At this time of Al Jazeera, MBC, and Al Arabiya, how many of you know that it was Lebanon that introduced in 1959, commercial television to the region? It took Kuwait ten more years (1969) to start accepting advertising on its government owned and managed, television station.

Of our awkward regional media development stories, is the fact that the government of Kuwait – who when it modernized its television studio and launched color TV – had to dismantle the old B&W television studios so it donated the entire facility; lock, stock and barrel to Dubai. The two friendly governments launching what was called then: Kuwait Television from Dubai. This TV became commercial in 1968, even before its parent Kuwait TV, did. Then Qatar Television turned commercial in 1977 while it took the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – the owner of MBC and Al Arabiya - 27 years, to finally catch up in 1986, with Lebanon.

Let us all shake away the grumbling defeatist mentality and stand together to count our blessing for being Lebanese...

I could carry on and on, reminding of the many achievements credited to the Lebanese - on the creative, media, research, publishing, composing, broadcasting and other innovation fronts. Be it for the MENA region, or even beyond. Instead I decided to stop here; lest the voice of skeptics, roars when one person shouts asking: “what is in these achievements for me and how can it possibly improve my own quality of life and my future?” The crowds then, start burning tires and repeat the chanting, after him.

To any one and to all advertising and media people who continue to sulk over our great country, I say: “Get up, let us stand together and start counting our many blessings”. Let us rejoice the fact that we are living in a free country where we can create ads that carry our uncensored ideas; no matter how big or controversial they are. We are able to do that, and people may like, applaud and consume. Or even reject and from their rejection we learn a lesson that helps in our professional journey. Count our blessings since we can place ads in the media that our clients prefer and consume. We are not dictated where to advertise because the system wants everyone to use the media of its choice. We can rely on professional research to make the right decisions on behalf of our clients and are able to challenge the system and not go to jail. Count our blessings for having been able to watch Hollywood’s latest releases in our preferred theatres since our childhood, not be amazed by the privilege of cinema going that we’ve been allowed few months back.

You may have felt these flowing thoughts not in line with the fast comprehension skills of the Instagram, Twitter and Facebook generation. My personal love to Lebanon after having worked in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, France and England - before returning to Lebanon - has certainly pumped my excitement. More so is the fact that I have been inspired by what the homogeneous  TBWARAAD team - I am sitting amongst - have been doing here in Beirut, since my return to Lebanon.

Since May of 2018, the team have hired a number of high-profile advertising stars at the Beirut agency inspired by their conviction that the Lebanese advertising market is in real need for a new DISRUPTIVE way of solving its marketing support challenges. In parallel they requested the transfer of more than 30 people from our Doha and Dubai agencies to join them here. This required more office space, so the agency moved at the beginning of this September to the heart of Beirut Central District where it currently occupies a three-floor office in the classy Jean Louis Mainguy ‘581 A’ building on Georges Haddad Avenue, at the entrance of Saifi. The TBWARAADLEBANON Group demonstrated by their actions, that our Lebanon is like the Greek Mythical Hydra, every time you cut one of its heads, seven new heads grow in its place.

Let us all shake away the grumbling defeatist mentality and stand together to count our blessing for being Lebanese and to revive Lebanon’s glories in developing and continuing to lead Arab Media and Advertising.