Fouad Abdel Malak, Executive Creative Director TBWA\RAAD talks inspiration, agency life, photography and all that makes him tick. Get a glimpse into the mind and heart of this multi-awarded creative that has a voracious appetite and a refined taste for culture and the arts.
What gets you up in the morning?
Each day feels like an episode of David Carradine’s 1970s Kung Fu TV Series. My five young Shaolin protégés wake me up with a fistful of grasshoppers – all part of the training... Then my pre-battle ritual – 20 minutes of Transcendental Meditation – when I can focus, setting my mind/body balance for the day. Now, I’m ready to step into the Advertising Wild West, where there’s a surprise waiting around every corner: from sudden shoot-outs with those standing in the way of creative boldness, to inspired storytelling around the campfire. All in a day’s work.
What is your greatest extravagance?
My bedroom toilet fit for The Kardashians with its opulent black and blue Bisazza Mosaico designer glass tiled, double sink, giant 2x2m rain shower and even larger Jacuzzi tub, which could easily double as an indoor swimming pool for the kids in the hot summer. Downside: we rarely use it to avoid taking out a loan for paying the extortionist DEWA bills.
What keeps you in the game?
A voracious appetite to consume the best of what life has to offer. From a staple diet of powerful documentaries, Netflix series, and arthouse films, to an unhealthy mix of Fallout 4 and Skyrim on PS4. Embracing diversity head on from street food to Michelin stars. Indulging in intellectual debates to hand signals with new cultures. All the while, feeding my Canon 5DSR with moments of urban decay and expressive portraits of humanity (Insta: abulfouf). Trying to use my work-time to help my teams realise their ideas that drive social change (like “Skins of Peace” for Amnesty International, amongst others).
What keeps you up at night?
Trump’s next move, watching FTV secretly without waking up the wife and near-neurotic attempts seemingly disconnected pieces for a truly disrupting campaign.
What music have you been listening to lately?
Loving the soundtrack of “The Get Down” (Netflix Series) reminds me of my Dulwich College days and hip-hop nights at The Fridge in Brixton.
What can we find on your phone?
Lots of photo apps (Snapseed, VSCO, Instagram and the like) – photography and literature are my first loves. Travel and booking apps (TripAdvisor: Rated Top 3% most-read contributor in the Food/Hotel Category for the Region). Old school games like Monopoly, Risk, Boggle, Karate Champ, etc. And finally, a crazy new app in beta stage called PlantNet that’s like the Shazam for plants, trees and flowers (a must-try).
Who would you like to sit next to on a seven-hour flight?
Obviously thought of philosophers, Osho, actors and Rock n Rollers, Supermodels from the 90s (Cindy, Naomi, Stephanie, Christy, Tatjana, Linda and co), my wife (on a good day) and Elon Musk…but to be honest, I’m kind of more interested in the history of power, and one man shaped Western strategic policy and world order (not necessarily for the good, and if he can still remember at 93), more than most: Henry Kissinger. Would love to pick his brains on what was secretly discussed and agreed concerning Lebanon and the region back in the day, what his take is on the current state of affairs and who really killed Kennedy?
What do you consider to be the greatest headline of all time?
I could never forget this classic Nike Billboard. Though not the greatest headline of all time, but before this, I never really paid attention to a headline. That was in the early 90s when I was living in London…
What business tip would you give the newbies?
Talk less, do more, even if it means you’ll mess up the first few times. Keep your nose on the ground, as to what’s out there, and not just in the ad world – inspiration is all around, you just have to sniff it out and give it time to shape into a solid idea. Focus on finding a creative solution to a problem and not a clever one-off thought that may look good on your screen, but lacks substance or an emotional connection with your audience. Don’t forget we’re in the digital age my friend and you have to think lazy like the consumer out there, but unlike the consumer, you have to be extremely focused, don’t let the advertising word ruin your perspective on what it means to be part of the audience. Work hard and be disciplined, but most important of all: don’t let any half-wit, insecure CD convince you you’re not as talented as you are.
If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be and why?
The power to cleanse people of their prejudice/hatred and all the stuff that is responsible for warping their minds into thinking we’re any different from one another. And it’ll all happen in a type of Miyazaki “Spirited Away” world. Set in a bath house for evil spirits: helping real people rid themselves of all the anguish that weighs them down (guess I’m still a bit of an idealist).
What would you like to be doing five years from now?
Co-creating installation art pieces, organic dishes, new spaces for friends and guests for my small B&B in Abadiyeh, Lebanon called Beit El Wadi (for booking contact my Mum @ hotelibanais.com)
What is the one thing you wish you have designed?
The Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman released in 1956: it’s a perfect combination of a contemporary-classic piece of furniture design, combined with remarkable functionality and comfort. And it looks so damn good in interior shoots. My dad proudly displayed one in his architectural firm back in the 70s, and 20 major museums still have it on display today. Charles Eames is dead, but you can still buy original replacement parts from Herman Miller. “I wish we could all age as gracefully as an Eames chair.” (…If a piece of furniture can inspire you to come up with a half decent quote about aging, it must be truly special )
Dream Destination: Bora Bora in the South Pacific
Restaurant: Indian Accent, Delhi
Hotel: Banyan Tree, Seychelles
Meal: Cotoletta Milanese with a 2010 Brunello
Quote: "Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien
Book: ‘Samarkand’ and ‘The Rock of Tanios’ by Amine Maalouf
Movie: The Apartment by Billy Wilder
Flower: Wild Lavender
Animal: Orca, but I wish it lived in warmer waters
Poet: Close call between Philip Larkin and W.B. Yeats
Music/band: My Dream band: Eric Clapton (Guitar), Roger Waters (Songwriter), Thom York or Robert Smith (Vocals), mixed by Daft Punk and Tribe Called Quest
Painter: Gorge Grosz
Heroes: My Dad followed closely by Malala Yousafzai