A criminal waste of Lebanese talent

August 12, 2009

By Ramsey Naja, chief creative officer, JWT MENA

“One of the good things about living in Beirut is the low crime rate. Which is a debatable advantage in a city equally known for partying and war: you won’t get mugged on the way to the club but you may get bombed – you do the stats. And this summer, it seems that people have decided it’s worth the risk of being F-16ed, judging by the number of tourists flocking into Beirut.

Ramsy bwBut for the visiting advertising pro, there is no concealing the vandalism on offer in the Lebanese capital. Save for a few glittering exceptions, it is violently on display on the majority of outdoor posters peppering every street: awful, pathetic, boring, vulgar, idiotic, toe-curlingly embarrassing advertising. Crime? Well you got it. In the region’s advertising cradle itself, the industry seems to compete with a delicatessen’s cheese counter.

For the place that launched a thousand advertising careers, many of which have gone to majestic heights on foreign shores, home is where the fart is. It seems like any brief is debunked with flatulence. It’s a collection of what-not-to-do: knee-jerk copy (with inevitable oh-I’m-so-clever exclamation marks), sigh-inducing visual metaphors and Johnny-two-times ads where the copy repeats what the pic labours to show.

Recently, the Lebanese ad industry had a great chance to show its mettle: an un-99.9-per cent election campaign upon which the world cast an intrigued gaze. For once, the Arab world had a freedom of speech champion with gold-plated balls, a Middle Eastern country that does opinion but not Bar Mitzvahs. Pens were sharpened instead of swords and our industry waded in. So what did we get? We got advertising that didn’t just preach to the converted, it pandered to the lowest common denominators and joined up with PR that managed to dig beneath the basest instincts for the kind of 360 that made you vomit with dizziness. And if you thought that was an aberration driven by the country’s bargain basement politics, the work on display today confirms it: what Lebanon suffers from is a criminal waste of talent.”


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