Monday, July 27, 2015

In defense of ideas and their ethics

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly (the "Shams Building" series - Ph-Auto Project)
What's Coco Chanel most enduring invention? Pearls? Camelias? Lipstick? Little Black Dress? Tweeds? Chains? The answer is: No, no, no, no, no, no. It was sunbathing. In 1920 she came back to Paris from a holiday in St. Tropez with such a dark skin that accidentally got exposed to sun - previously a vulgar thing associated with lower-class people who worked outdoors in the fields - that sunbathing became so uber-chic. Fast-forward to today, women of all classes parade their dark-skins and compete for salon or beach darkening sessions.
Ideas flow, no one can stop them, they are born to be shared and popularized, they are here to better our lives and enrich them. Sure, there are claims that everything has been said before and there's nothing new under the sun. But that's not true. Building on ideas brings new refreshing, invigorating, frisson-inducing ideas.
People often do the unmistakable error, confusing "information" for "knowledge". Information is just that, facts and figures. Which are incredibly important, I am not negating that. Knowledge is how to put them together, to make sense of them, so that the combination of all these independent facts and figures become more than the sum of their parts.
Have you ever been exposed to Maison Margiela and its founder Martin Margiela (who is no longer part of the house) couture ideas? Every new collection comes brimming with deconstructed ideas, new interpretation of older concepts, they even have a "replica" line. Found clothing which they reinterpret in the highest possible materials. Their best selling sneaker is a reinterpretation of a shoe that was worn by the German army during training. That is genius if there was one.
Have you ever had lunch with Farid Chehab? He is the honorary chairman of Leo Burnett MENA. Thankfully, it is not his position that impresses me. Already an early septuagenarian, and having previously suffered from a debilitating ski accident earlier this year (from which he recovered), you'll have problems keeping up with him. He shoots an idea, as soon as you grasp it, he'd already shot you another, as you struggle with the new one, he's already on a roll and that's just the hors-d'oeuvres (and with this I mean the food not the ideas). Three hours later, because that's an average time for lunch with Farid, you leave the table richer, more educated. And by "educated" I take it in the biggest, widest possible sense.
I don't pretend it is clear cut to say how ideas get generated, or if they have clear ownership. But taking an information from a blog without crediting it is wrong. It is a theft. Copying an idea from someone else and claiming it yours is theft too. Looking at a colleague's computer screen, or portfolio, and spending time at the office doing hours to send the same idea to the boss who is on business trip to Tokyo is also theft. Yes, you can build on ideas and change them to come up with new interesting ones, but you cannot steal ideas outright and still claim them and go to on television and say "I am the new face of advertising in the Middle East". That is arrogance, the kind of arrogance that comes with thieves who think they will never be caught.
I remember the first time I exposed a stolen ad, it was circulating wildly over the email and having been a frequent contributor to the ArabAd magazine I sent it to them and it made a scandal. It is still there in the ArabAd archives, a testimony of a time prior to the current days when you can catch an ad thief by a simple google search. But sadly, the more ubiquitous the availability of information, the more frequent the theft. Especially for today's generation which is used to getting everything for free and ready-made.
An architecture student (even if I do not teach architecture as of yet) asked me about "modular buildings" in the library, I gently guided him to search for "La Cite Radieuse" by Le Corbusier. Five minutes later he comes back with the answer "but it's already been done before!". I had to explain to him that I did not want him to copy it, simply look at it and get inspired to how to change it to apply it to his own project.
A creative mind never sleeps, this whole blog post came to me in my morning walk which I have to take for my diabetes. There's no rest for a creative mind, no office hours. But between building on older ideas and re-conceptualizing them, and stealing them outright thinking no one would notice, there's a big unethical margin. It is called theft.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Beirut Beer flunks belly up!

Photo credit: GM
When it comes to beers not giving you a beer belly, or bloating you, Beirut Beer misses the point entirely. And flunks (no) belly up... To start recounting the wrongs in this ad, we can say, copy, concept, visual, positioning, unique selling proposition. Beirut Beer wants to portray itself as the anti-Almaza. And fails on all counts!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Love in the time of cholera and garbage

I am freely borrowing the title of this post from the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but these ads are stunning. Almaza, our national beer, and Exotica both came up with brilliant ads for this garbage crisis we are suffering (garbage has not been collected for a while due to the closing of our landfill). For times like these advertising was created. Almaza, who usually signs "this s our mood and this is who we are" simply said "this is not our mood and this is not who we are". Exotica emphasized that there is hope even in the bleakest times. It's Saturday, I am in love, to misquote The Cure!

Suing me will not shut me up!

Artworks by Fady Chahine
Let me be clear from the start, suing me is not going to shut me up. If anything it will make me more vocal. The "plaintiff" in my case (whose name I will not mention since I signed a paper at the cybercrime bureau not to mention his name on this blog till after the trial) is constructing a convoluted scenario. For him, I am just a side dish - he wants to use me to prove that his former employer is using me as a "façade" (me and my blog that is) to get back at him since the said employer is already suing the plaintiff for embezzlement (which is theft). 
Let me assure you, my IQ is 129 (one level down from 130 which is "genius") so I am not dumb enough for anyone to use me. Not only that, I have no contact whatsoever with his former employer, nor am I aware of where their offices are located, nor do I care about the other trial. Half of the questions I was asked at the cybercrime bureau had to do with the plaintiff's other trial and I knew that the cybercrime bureau was trying (most likely with the help of the political strings the plaintiff pulled) to prove a connection between me and the plaintiff's former employer.
What the plaintiff does not understand is that he already lost the case.
If the court, with the help of my substantial proofs, will agree why I called him thief (which he considers as defamation) then I won the case. If it doesn't, the plaintiff will be tried in the court of public opinion because I am going to release those proofs online and he'd lose the case again.
If his former employer wins the case, embezzlement is theft, so this substantiates my own claim and if the verdict in the other case comes before mine then this proves my own claims. If it comes after mine, I will ask for a retrial and use the other verdict to make sure that my own calling of him as "thief" was correct.
No matter how you flip it, turn it, or look at it - he lost the case.
The artworks above, by my former student and current friend Fady Chahine, have to do with the acronym NTSC that this blog is very linked to (whereas originally it meant Never Twice Same City, we toyed around with it to make it "Never Try Stealing Concepts") the funky line is a sentence said in funerals in Lebanon "may God compensate you with the rest of you life" which has been transformed into "may God compensate you for what's left of your career".
Let me be clear again, if you earned a salary from a company, you cannot use the concepts you came up with during that tenure if they were unsold and sell them again to a client (same or different) after you left because the intellectual property of that idea belongs to the employer who paid you. If you do that, then this is theft. If you see a concept done by someone else, you cannot reuse it because that is theft. Copying a TV ad frame per frame is theft.
Ideas are sacred, it is not because they are untouchable that they become free for everyone to borrow. If you steal a physical object, society automatically condemns you as a thief, if you steal something intangible and untouchable, then the territory is murky. It should not be. Stealing an idea makes you a thief. Period. I am a staunch defender of ideas, I respect them, and I hold them dear...
So to sum it up: Suing me will not shut me up.
It will make me even more vocal.
Live with that, or as those visuals clearly say, let your career die with that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Lebanese Army 70 years - a brilliant ad

To those who sue me for defamation, here's my clear answer: Brilliant ad for the Lebanese Army for its 70 years. Pity I am forbidden by law to mention your name (see the drawbacks of accusing someone at the cybercrime bureau?), for I would like to give you credit (but cannot - irony of all ironies!). "The common denominator" says the above visual with colors of the major Lebanese parties in the color bar, "the common aggregator" says the one below with the camouflage of the army reworked in the above-mentioned colors. Very neat and efficient way of expressing it for the 70 years of the Lebanese Army (which will be on August 1st). So you see, come up with a great ad I shall congratulate you, nothing personal. Am not siding with anyone against anyone! Keep on doing great ads, and I shall keep saying they are good!

Bus Map Project - the joys of being taken for a ride.

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly

And so it finally happened, I found someone else who enjoys (and maybe needs) the bus system as a way of commuting (easily, calmly, punctually) throughout the city and further on. I was never keen on driving, I learned it late and never enjoyed it and had to stop it due to hearing issues (the problem with the hearing meant I could not anticipate what other drivers were going to do - my own driving even if not enjoyed was top notch). So what did I do? I went back to taking busses as I always have.
Photos of ads you see on this blog were taken from busses - which are higher than cars and end up being eye to eye with ad billboards. Other advantages the bus offers include someone else driving so you can use two hands while shooting, they also imply getting to your appointment calmly and without nervous issues because someone else was suffering the traffic instead of you. I was never late to an appointment, no parking problems hindered me (try doing that in Hamra and then tell me how it feels). My Dutch friend who came to holiday in Lebanon enjoyed enormously switching through three busses and paying 3,33 USD to get from Jounieh to Tyr. It was a day off, so waiting a few minutes for the bus to fill was more of a joy than a dread and almost an anthropological experiment.
So here it is below, what I got yesterday from the super interesting project called Bus Map Project which you can find via Facebook:
"Public transportation in Lebanon suffers from an image problem, a problem so endemic, that many people don’t even know it exists. Even the acting Minister of Public Works and Transportation, the guy supposed to be its biggest “brand ambassador,” has been quoted as saying that public transport doesn’t “actually exist.”
How do you promote a service to people convinced it doesn’t exist? Bus Map Project is a campaign seeking to build a community around this question -- a question that requires a collective answer.
We want to start by sharing stories, tips and experiences from regular (and occasional) riders, because that’s how our bus system has always worked; you figure it out by asking people. This is part of the charm of our cities, and it’s something we want to celebrate.
Our cities also have a logic. Mapping Lebanon’s complex tangle of bus and van networks will hopefully show how it all holds together, how it works, and where it needs improvement. In the coming months, we hope to gather enough support to launch a call for action to collectively map the whole public transport system. We don’t know when this project will end, but we are certain that it will be a learning experience for everyone involved because mapping is about more than lines on a page — it’s about forging and extending connections."
And before we go why not check this beautiful graduation project from Elsy Nohra on the bus system image!

Monday, July 20, 2015

So I am being sued :)

Can't say by whom (the law forbid me to state his name), but there you go, I am off to a trial for saying the truth about someone and his behavior. No, I am not worried since, win or lose, I already won (I am truly trying to understand what he can get from the trial apart from more bad publicity and a moral confirmation of how outlandish behavior!)...

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Aquafina - water advertising at its best

I admit it, I am moved by this ad. It reminds me of the early Sohat ads - full of naïve expectations, eco-friendliness, and noble values. And it's for Aquafina (by the makers of Pepsi). The layout shows waters in shapes of mountains and the headline goes "pure water... with the guarantee of our mountains". I really like this ad.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

#Meettheneighbors BeitMisk is still here.

Wow, can you believe BeitMisk is still advertising? My first records indicate they started in 2011, they had good moments (here and here) their bad ones (here), but this last campaign was sort of a puzzlement.... Wasn't the project supposed to be sold out by now? Four years down the line, they still have to harp about the people, the work-life balance, the quality of the air, the trees, etc.... Frankly, seeing this ad a bit late in the game makes me wonder about the product itself. Well, still, you can #meettheneighbors - no Kylie Minogue though (a wink for the 80s generation!).

Abou Fouad for president!

So there, Abou Fouad goes to Washington, or rather Baabda.... Our household extraordinaire is exceptional in being cost-efficient, multitasker, a good council, he is diplomatic, has a million tricks up his sleeve. And frankly, between the available options, I says "yes" to Abou Fouad (pardon the pun!)... The campaign is on ladies and gentlemen!