Thursday, November 20, 2014

Independence ads start trickling

Photo: GHM
Research: GHM
Independence day ads (Nov. 22nd) have already starting popping up, the one of the Lebanese Army is a classic - it is based on their motto "honor, sacrifice, loyalty" - so the headline reads "honor, sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice, loyalty" indicatig that they are suffering many casualties due to the political instability storming Lebanon. Spinney's supermarket come up with a great one "artichoke" in Arabic is "ardi chawki" or literally "my land a needle" so the visual (inpired by our flag) reads "My land! A needle won't touch it!". Seems like a vintage year!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mum 21: Se7rouki bakin se7rouki mum!

Christmas came early this year for me, I fell on a treasure trove of vintage ads. Just as a teaser, how about these snapshots from the original Mum 21 TV ad? Mum mum 21, se7rouki bakin se7rouki mum!

The reason why the Zoughaib billboards are cut!

Image source Najib Mitri
Najib has asked a pertinent question, one that I have been asked previously by my advertising and graphic design students "why are the Zoughaib billboards cut?". Actually, the photo he took is one of the "good" ones, other are so blotched it's pathetic. Naturally, having observed this phenomenon myself I started rationalizing why a supposedly upscale brand would butcher its ads so majestically. The reason I came up with is so benign it is frightening! It's very simply called "recycling". You see, if you look at the way the ads are cut, always omitting words from the brand's name on all of those unfortunate executions, you'd realize "gee! if they had a little more space they could have save the day, maybe one more meter!" - so think about all those cut ads, add a meter or a bit more in certain cases to them and you will get the standard size of a unipole! The 14x3. Yes, these ads which are currently being shown are previous unipoles the brand has used, and so because they are "environmentally friendly" or maybe "cheap" and "not brand image conscious" they decided to recycle them on whatever current size fits - the stretch of the highway between Zouk and Jounieh has the highest casualties.
A reprint could have cost as much as a diamnond necklace they are selling. Did they do it? No, they prefer to be stingy and cheap.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Spin doctor Abou Faour wags the dog.

Image source
The list of establishments which are non-conform (the now classic expression "ghayr moutabik") to standards which has been released by Lebanese Minister of Health Wael Bou Faour has caused a storm on all levels. So Abdel Rahman Hallab had an Ashta (clotted cream with rose water) which apparently did not meet the ministry's laboratory criteria, which promted the above image found on fellow blogger's Patrick Chemali "how do you cover the extension? With Ashta". Interestingly, it's either a) the Lebanese government has become frighteningly great at spin doctoring or b) they watched "Wag the dog".
First let us reiterate with the facts, the Lebanese parliament has extended its own mandate till June 2017, the news natrually was badly digested by the population (or the vocal civil society activists on all accounts), and the news would have trended longer except - bingo - a new scandal, so immediate and so unavoidable broke out: The Bou Faour report.
In itself, the airwaves were owned (according to the known technique of propaganda whereby you go out and state your facts and make everyone else on the defensive), and basically deflect the original scandal into onother one, so that by the end of the process, both would not be worthy of discussion any longer.
So now, bloggers and social media actors (some of them being more royalist than the king) rushed to the rescue of "martyred" brands and "wronged" companies and attacked "non-transparent" (the word "opaque" does not apply) ministry results, The Hallab invited their Heads of Departments to taste dishes with Ashta in them, and some declated they'd trust a "Roadster" chicken strip (one of the accused meals not being conform in the one of the branches) more than a minister in the Lebanese goernment.
#no_to_extension? That's sooooooooooo old news by now.
The movie Wag the Dog starts with a joke: "Why does a dog wag its tail? Because the tail cannot wag the dog."
But of course it can! All it takes is a good propagandist spin doctor and some Ashta... ya 3assal!

Do they know it's Christmas time? 30 years later

The new version of Band Aid's "Do they know it's Christmas time?" is now tomorrow and this time the proceeds will go for fighting the Ebola crisis hitting Africa. It's the song that, in 1984, taught us that "there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time" (where the hell do you think Mount Kilimnjaru is?) and that they don't know it's Christmas time - forgetting that's Christians galore on the continent, and of course - "no rivers flow" - because we all know that the Nile, Congo, and Niger rivers are indeed.... "flowing" there. Sure there a zillion problems with the song: the patronising imperialist stand, the money that was squandered, the above mentionned errors and naivete in the lyrics, and the list goes on.
But laugh at it if you must, it became a Christmas classic - redone in 1989, 2004 and 2014 - and has in many ways generated memories for generations of people from trying to imitate the Bono growl (now himself a punchline of jokes after the disastrous iPhone launch of the U2 album), to parties with loved one and friends, etc.... The above covers in the photo are for the original single and the 2004 reedition (bought respecfively in 1995 from someone selling his old records and in 2004 on the launch day of the reedition when I happened to be in Belfast).
My own memory of the song?
Our haughty teacher at AUB walks in whistling The Boomtown Rats' "I don't like Mondays"... And very sarcastically asks if anyone knows the connection of that song with soil science. I pitched it saying that Bob Geldof, the singer of The Boomtown Rats actually saw a documentary on TV about famile in Africa due to the eroded soil which prompted him with Midge Ure to write "Do they know it's Christmas time?". Defeated, he said "Chemaly you are usually a pain in the butt, today you are totally right".

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jean-Paul Goude recreates iconic photo with Kim Kardashian #paper #breaktheinternet

Strange... I've seen this photo before... To paraphrase Grace Jones' hit, the muse of none other than legendary creator Jean-Paul Goude. Goude is the man behind today's photos which broke the internet, and no wonder since Paper magazine actually wanted us to #breaktheinternet. Naturally I am speaking of the now too famous cover of Kim Kardashian showing her derriere, but it seems part of the photoshoot was also the above image which features Goude recreating one of his iconic photos - except, gasp!, Kardashian is dressed in this one (whereas the original was nude, not that Kim has any reservations about showing flesh). 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Charbel Nassour plays is "un"safe with condoms to tackle parliamentary extension!

Credit: Charbel Nassour
Charbel Nassour, who was formerly a student, tackes the parliamentary self-extension of their mandate playing on the Durex condom.... The ad is self-explanatory, witty, and expresses the thinking of the majority of the population. Well done!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

USEK students tackle the parliamentary extension creatively

First let me begin by saying that this an academic exercise, which by no means reflects the university politics or is endorsed by the brands in question. After Stoli made a punch to the self-extended parliament my brief was for my students to choose a brand and also tackle the same event creatively. Honestly, I was spoiled rotten! The below result is posted in random order for an execrise that was done under strict internet-less conditions (meaning, any a resemblance with anything currently floating online is a simple coincidence).
Elio Mechleb
Elio Mechleb chose "Nike" which - when pronounced in Arabic means "to screw someone" - this mandate extension is the biggest "Nike". There, sealed and delivered!
Elie Aoun
Elie Aoun chose Cafe Najjar, "slowly slowly on the backburner" we load our politicians and have to carry them till 2017.
Joseph Abboud
Joseph Abboud capitalized on a long lasting battery and a famous slogan already "what's your battery? Re-O-Vac" (Chou bettariyetkon?). We should have chosen a disposible brand!
Lexie Daoud
Lexie Daoud strikes a double punch! First with Fiordelli "sar badna ta2m jdid" - we need a new "outfit" (which doubles as new people and new suit!). And then she was on a roll and did Yokohama tires:
Lexie Daoud
"Da3et el tasse" (the wheel cover/compass has been lost).
Rana Ayoub
Rana Ayoub calls for the parliament members to give themselves - and us - a break... Have a break Have a KitKat.
Lea Saliba pictures our speaker of the parliament drinking and therefore stopping to talk for "a moment of silence" to mourn a democracy that remained at the "demo" level.
Ghenwa Abou Fayad takes Exotica for a field trip with "a rose only blossoms... once!".
Once more, this is not a reflection of the USEK politics or the brands' stance on what is going on, but I am very proud we have students who will work in the ad industry capable of creating the concept and the copy for this in 75 minutes or less!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Helvetic Zebra: the stripes that earned Station (even more) stars!

Photo credit: George Zouein and Nabil Canaan

For me to speak of a show at Station Beirut is in itself biased, I was already full of awe for the Maripol opening bash and also covered Leila Alaoui's exhibition about the Syrian refugees with words of praise. In addition, In Medias Res, a show I was heavily involved in happened at the premises there. Still, I will start this post with a Mea Culpa considering I am speaking of a show which is currently ending, and I have only myself to blame for not having attended earlier. So these words will be considered "for posterity" much more than an enticement to go see "Helvetic Zebra".
Perhaps the positive angle of viewing the exhibition so late, is that by now - all the surrounding events have finished - which gives the remaining elements a different perspective than if there was a lot of brouhaha surrounding them.
To the untrained eye, the exhibition's understatement can be confused for shallowness, its restrained face for lack of ambition, and its sporadic visualization as creative overreaching for the topic at hand. However, the works are loaded with meaning, their poise full of zen and balance, and the scenography makes them synergistic without tiptoeing around each other's feet.
The works certainly differ in sizes, from a full wall to a decomposing structure made of a trash bag. Some of them technically challenging while others rely on the lowest technology possible. The "helvetic" angle is thankfully extended conceptually to notions which are not immediately obvious, making the pieces challenging to trace back to the original rationale they came from thus rendering them more layered and worthy of exploration. Considering that the space was occupied previously by the In Medias Res team, it is refreshing to see how it could be - without any change to the architecture - be converted differently and just as efficiently by someone else.
I could spend paragraphs detailing the works, which alas, at this time it's too late to comment upon, but I am not sure the sight of Dunja Herzog's trash can with a small chair on it is not easily forgettable, or the monochromatic screenprints by Philippe Decrauzat which lie in the realm of trompe l'oeil and that linger in the mind long after they were last seen, or the overall work by curator Donatella Bernardi making this exhibition a coherent whole (alongside her own included artwork - a gigantic wall which pays tribute to Bridget Riley's op art). Helvetic Zebra, though the language of typography and polyglot notions that Lebanon shares with Switzerland, managed to combine the unfeasible - bringing a common language to the divided land which exported the alphabet in the first place.
With this show, Station, once more, earns its stars with the zebra stripes.