Feer McQueen on forging ahead ‘quarter after quarter, slowly but surely’
Posted on 2024 Apr,01

Firas Mghames, CEO FEER McQUEEN, Hala Adaimy, Creative Director, Rebecca Mourani, Business Director, discuss the challenging specific landscape of Lebanon advertising, the new normal for the industry and how Feer McQueen is managing to adapt to new marketing practices and disruptive trends but also how it is growing amid such turbulent times.


The overall picture

The “New Normal” or Something Like That


Firas Mghames: The thing is that clients in Lebanon have just been seeking quick wins. A lot of new agencies have sprouted up in the Lebanese market. Most of these fresh faces have popped up with competitive pricing, despite their lack of experience – this has been okay for local clients over the past few years because they were looking for quick wins and lower prices, but now we’re expecting these clients to come back to base – back to depth, experience, and strategic marketing. Today, the Lebanese market is seeing investments being made on a short-term, seasonal basis (Christmas, Summer, etc.). So, we’re lacking the call for strategizing and real marketing plans. No one is planning that far ahead, and we aren’t seeing a true willingness to invest big chunks of money on marketing at the moment. To cater to this “new normal” we’ve had to minimize resources on local accounts.


Hala Adaimy: Compared to the past few years, and definitely looking back at the year 2019, I see that 2023 actually witnessed a big leap. In the communication and marketing scopes, we witnessed this willingness and drive for clients in Lebanon to “comeback”.

On the other hand, maybe our collective memory has forgotten the dynamic of marketing and advertising in Lebanon pre-2019. Can we remember the details of what was “normal” to compare to a “new normal”? Regardless, what will always remain true is that people always have something to say, and so brands continue to communicate. In Lebanon, we have always had that resilient mindset that looks forward no matter what.



Business as usual

Quarter by Quarter, We’ll Forge Ahead


FM: No, in Lebanon we’re not yet back to business as usual, but we are getting there, quarter after quarter, slowly but surely. However, it’s a very sensitive situation. If the upcoming quarter looks promising, clients in Lebanon go ahead, and so on and so forth every quarter. I think of the situation as a wind-up toy. We have to keep winding it up deliberately to help it forge ahead and keep up momentum.


Rebecca Mourani: Things are going relatively fine in the Lebanese market. What triggers this is the Lebanese appetite for new investments, for life, and for keeping up. This applies across Lebanon, but especially in the Beirut DT area. The current and upcoming hype in new F&B outlets is notable. These activities are an indicator of the improving health of the market, and it encourages other investments. When we break it down, the ones who have less to lose are investing, and they are encouraging the other smaller players in a sense. However, while we are seeing this growth, we aren’t seeing long term planning. The investors in Lebanon know they are taking a risk, and that’s why they are making shorter term plans.


H.A: The current Lebanese market situation is nearing “business as usual” thanks to the Lebanese DNA of continuously moving forward. Everyone is trying to survive and a be part of something. Something different, something bigger. We don’t have any other choice actually. It’s that or stop. If you want to continue, you have to be a part of this big picture and big movement forward. And no one really wants to stop.



Reviving Lebanon’s golden age

Creating Golden Age 2.0


F.M: We’ll have to wait for investment – it goes back to politics.


H.A: I think that golden age will not and should not come back. It shaped the base of what we know now. That’s why it’s called “the golden age” by definition. We can strive to hit Golden Age 2.0 – but it won’t come back as is. Another era will crop up that will be shaped with digital, technology, AI, etc. Today we have to have something new, something different, and I think if we remain in this progression that started in 2023, (if nothing happens, though the risk is high due to the current regional situation) will witness, or better yet, create, the Golden Age 2.0 Come to think of it, nostalgia isn’t always a good thing, it can hold you back – Nostalgia is good for inspiration and emotions, but it won’t help you really and truly move forward rationally and practically.



About the economic picture

Pragmatism is Key


F.M: As an agency in Lebanon, we’re also working quarter by quarter. We are not concerned, but we are not dependant on this. Our ups and downs are manageable. It’s all about being pragmatic – with low ups come low downs.


R.M: Lebanon has always witnessed crises. We’ve also always witnessed the rebirth of advertising, and everything else. It’s always been phases of ups and downs. As an agency in Lebanon we are concerned, but not overly concerned, because it’s always been a recurrent cycle. We always have hope.


H.A: For me, the economic picture is not directly related to the industry as such. In the boom of Advertising in 2011-2012, our Lebanese economy was not booming. This proves that when people want to say something, the economy doesn’t stop them. They find their way to do it. You always find people who have something to say. 2019 was definitely a blow to everyone. Today, though with 2023 out the door and a new year ahead of us, hopefully we’ll keep moving forward in the Lebanese market.


Factors affecting planning in 2024

“If You’re Afraid of Failing, You Probably Won’t Fail”


H.A: I think from an advertising perspective, external regional factors and fear will have big effects – clients’ fears and our own fears of not being bold enough, not being big enough, and not jumping into giant things. It’s a double-edged sword, because, odds are, if you’re afraid of failing, you probably won’t fail. You would be fighting tooth and nail, subconsciously, not to fail. So, this fear can be an obstacle and a catalyst.



“I think of the situation as a wind-up toy. We have to keep winding it up deliberately to help it forge ahead and keep up momentum. “


Trends affecting marketing

AI: A Double-Edged Sword


F.M: The biggest trend affecting marketing in 2024? AI in all its facades. We can take it as a huge positive in our industry. Hopefully AI won’t be used negatively or abused in the sense that it might lower the skills of fresh talents and decrease the level of creativity if it is not used properly.


H.A: On the topic of AI, moderation is something very important. It’s important to know your limits: not to abuse and not to underuse. We need to keep hold of our quality standards, aesthetic level, and conceptual thinking without abusing AI and letting it take over. Any tool related to technology or something that represents the future should be used in the right place and right time, not just using it to use it. AI is a tool, not a replacement for marketers and advertisers. Knowing how, when and where to use AI tools is a key element we need to juggle and figure out.



Top priorities for 2024

Optimization, Optimization, Optimization


F.M: As far as business goes, our top priority is to keep on getting results. In the current Lebanese economy and market, we are surely optimizing clients’ budgets and using it down to the last dime in a clever way because they’re going into it with the right mentality. At the end of the day, it’s optimization versus just being cheap. So, we are becoming more and more results driven and resourceful in the way that we think and plan for our clients in Lebanon. What’s great is that we can prove that we can get results. A recent international e-commerce campaign with Hallab saw a 1006.67% (literally!) increase in sales compared to a previous campaign by our client, and we’re currently working on a full digital experience to enhance Crepaway’s service offerings. That is how we augment our work and think strategically, with all the continuously moving parts in our industry and region.


H.M: There are two things to keep in mind: The Message and The Execution. What differs in today’s world is the tools that are available to each client due to budget constraints. We will always work tirelessly to execute the client’s message in an innovative and optimized way. New tools are helping us do this (AI for instance). At the end of the day, ideas are ideas, and we’ll continue to give the best ideas and concepts. As long as people have something to say, we will always have something to do.