ArabAd wanted to learn more from Lebanese admen who have been in advertising for over 15 years by asking whether the best time in the ad business has passed or is yet to reveal itself, in addition to the things they miss about the good old days.
Alain Hochar, Group MD, M&C Saatchi MENA
I first joined the ad industry...
In 1996, for the fun, as a part-time copywriter.
The one thing I have always loved and still do about this profession...
The good old things about the ad business back in the 1990s, which no longer exist today...
Tony Stone books. Les Phénix de la Pub. The Print Awards.
My ‘Wonder years’ in advertising...
It’s when I used to sit on the agency’s Global Creative Council.
The craziest story to come out of all my time of service...
The craziest story that happened to me is winning a pitch over the power point presentation’s title - that ended up being the brand’s tagline!
Alain Shoucair, Regional ECD, Drive Dentsu
How and why I joined the ad industry... I started at Leo Burnett as a trainee in 1991 upon a teacher’s invitation to do a summer internship while I was still at university. I guess I was so good at the photocopy machine at the time, they decided to pay me the internship and make me an offer to stay with them, which I did for two years as a part-time art director. Great people. Great work. Great times. Great beginning.
The one thing I have always loved and still do about this profession... Finding creative solutions to problems or coming up with ideas of course. People outside the industry think our job is the coolest ever. It is indeed, but they don’t know how stressful and frustrating it can get sometimes. Finding a great idea, selling it to the client, crafting it and watching it come to life, is always exciting and very rewarding. I guess it’s the one thing that keeps you going on and on in this business.
The good old things about the ad business back in the 1990s, which no longer exist today... Everything was much simpler back then. A full-fledged campaign consisted of TV, print, radio and in the worst case some additional ambient and BTL stuff. Layouts were rough sketches, so it was much more challenging to finalise them, and there was a certain charm in working with films before the digital age.
Our job ended when it was on air or in print. Today, the social media revolution and new technologies have changed everything. There are so many things to think of and so many channels to consider. We have to be more entertaining, more visible, more competitive, much faster and less expensive. And to top it all off, anyone has the right to judge you and comment on your work in real time. But even though things seem a little harder these days, advertising has always been about challenges, so bring it on!
It was a different ball game. Big clients, big budgets, million dollars productions... Crazy times.
My ‘Wonder years’ in advertising... were the first four years I worked at Grey from 2003 till 2007, as I had the chance to meet some of the most talented people of the industry, and to create and produce some of my finest works.
The craziest story to come out of all my time of service... Just for the anecdote in 2005, our CEO Philippe Skaff had brought folding beds to the creative department because we were practically spending every weekend there. It was the year I rented a chalet in Faraya but only got the chance to use it for New Year’s Eve, which makes it by far the most expensive investment I ever made. But it was also the year we won 14 pitches in a row. Asian Games, Qtel, Alarabiya, to name a few. So it was a different ball game. Big clients, big budgets, million dollars productions, travelling to far away countries, discovering new places and cultures and meeting interesting people... crazy times. On a much sadder note but just as crazy, I was devastated in end of 2005 by the assassination of Gebran Tueini who had been my client for two years. Paradoxically it fell on me to conceive his commemoration film; ‘Voice of Freedom’ became the piece of work I’m most proud of, maybe because it’s much more than an ad.
Karim Achy, Executive Creative Director, Havas Worldwide Beirut
Why I joined the ad industry... I fell in love with advertising and started as an art director in 1990.
The one thing I always loved and still do about this profession is... that it gives you wings and goose bumps.
The good old things about the ad business back in the 1990s, which no longer exist today: Back then the idea was everything. And it is still for me the 'hero'. But false understanding of social media has changed the map.
My ‘Wonder years’ in advertising... are still in my mind. That's why I fight everyday to make people dream.
Nada Abi Saleh, MD Beirut, Leo Burnett Beirut
I joined the ad industry... by default in 1988. It was in September. I wanted to make movies and direct musicals but I ended up doing a law degree and a masters in international relations. Journalism and foreign affairs were not exciting options for me, so I turned to advertising thinking that I might as well “do ads”. Leo Burnett was my first and only choice. I was interviewed by Charles Homsi and Farid Chehab (The “H” and the “C” of H&C Leo Burnett and I was hired on the spot as an Account Executive on Procter and Gamble’s account. I was 24 years old.
The one thing I have always loved and still do about this profession is.... The business of ideas.
The good old things about the ad business back in the 1990s, which no longer exist today... In the world of big corporations and global networks, I miss the freedom, the flexibility and the facility we had back then in managing our business, our brands and our resources. What I definitely don’t miss is the traditional and cumbersome tools we had to work with, from the use of telex and typewriters to bromides and photo type setting...
My ‘Wonder years’ in advertising... It is the times we are living in. It is now. It is the future.
The craziest story to come out of all my time of service... Living in the craziest country ever and continue loving.
Walid Kanaan, CCO, TBWA/RAAD MENA
The times I joined the ad industry... It was 1992 and Lebanon was rising from 15 years of destructive wars. I graduated “Major de promotion de Publicité” from ALBA, received the IAA Award for best advertising diploma and got showered by dozens of offers from renowned networks, ultimately converting my childhood dream, comic strips production, into the obvious and joined Publi-Graphics (Publicis) as junior art director.
The one thing I have always loved and still do about this profession... The creative side will always be the most exciting aspect of advertising, simply because it has no boundaries and just doesn’t follow any rule book. Creativity doesn’t have laws and regulations; it doesn’t have a system that you can pass-on. Creativity is an open path that anyone can join, and nowadays more than ever, creative advertising is under immense pressure to keep proving itself.
The competitive spirit in the Lebanese market is somehow lost.
Some of the good old things about the ad business back in the 1990s, which no longer exist today... The competitive spirit in the Lebanese market is somehow lost. In the 90s, there was a hunger for visibility driven by all brands and I believe that was triggered by many factors, but mostly the amount of specialised local award shows (Phenix for TV commercials, ArabAd/IAA for print awards, VDL for radio awards, Pikasso for outdoor awards...). The live broadcast of the Phenix de la pub offered high exposure for brands, clients and agencies; it was a benchmark and had a huge effect on increasing the quality of the work. It drove healthy competition and marked a golden era of Lebanese advertising. Nowadays, only few local agencies invest in regional and international award shows, while the only remaining local show is Pikasso d’Or.
Advertising’s ‘Wonder years’...
Despite all the successes, I still believe the wonder years are yet to come. Advertising is reinventing itself, especially with the growth of social media platforms and their impact on consumer behaviour. The advertising matrix has changed; it is mutating so fast that interactivity became key for any successful campaign. In the old days, brands used to sponsor the news. Nowadays, brands want to be the news.
Daniel Georr, MD / Partner, Its. Beirut
I first joined the ad industry.... In 1995 with PIMO as an art director. I still believe that was one of the best career choices I made in my life; for many reasons they helped me get where I wanted to be at that time.
The one thing I have always loved and still do about this profession... I don't really love this profession. To be honest, I don't like a lot of things about it, but for some reason I can't leave it. I tried many times, but I always come back running. Whatever the reasons are, I
am having a long term relationship with someone I don't really like. It's like Adam and Eve, they only stayed with each other because there was no one else to go to. And the same applies to me. I don't know how to do anything else but advertising, because that's my whole life... Anyway, what I do like about it are things like the people, ideas, the brainstorming, diversification, as in the ability to work on many things at the same time and the possibility to work simultaneously on different businesses, from banks to burgers within the same hour.... The list is long! However, and for some reason I ignore, when you put all these together they constitute something horrible: THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY and that I hate...
The good old things about the ad business back in the 1990s, which no longer exist today... It's MONEY!
My ‘Wonder years’ in advertising... If we are talking about money, budgets, stability, number of ads and campaigns we do etc. there is no doubt that the nineties were the "wonder years"; but if we are talking about real challenges and great ideas, I believe today we are lucky to live these wonder years... It's a fact that before we were stuck between four different medias (TV, radio, outdoor and print) and only the rich were able to communicate. Ideas were always needed but I remember we were always able to compensate for a bad idea with a big budget. My boss used to tell me, a great campaign needs, a big idea or a big budget and if you have both you probably are a lucky son of a b... Today, we have choices, brands don't need to be rich to communicate, they only need to have a story, a good product and some common sense; if you do, you have thousands of channels to go to. Nothing can stop a good story from getting out, and that puts quality over money.