Advertising: The case of Lebanon

This post was written in collaboration with beirutdriveby

The relationship between advertising and the Lebanese population seems to be a very experimental stage. In fact it is amazing how the big advertising agencies we have are failing in this area… Is advertising in Lebanon dead? Did creativity pass away? Hopefully not but when one looks around the streets, TV, magazines etc… Numerous questions and concerns get raised:

Is any reliable research being done before exposing the public to the advertisement? Is there an actual concept that is being developed?
Marketing, Advertising, Graphic Design etc… so many fields that are being mixed up and thought to be one and the same. This is frustrating!  Most of the times companies go for: a photo, and few a useless lines. No idea. No message. No concept. Just a mere “Hello, I exist.” Do they even know who their customers are and what appeals to them?

Is some advertisers’ sole purpose to copy other countries’ advertisements? Do made-in “anywhere else” advertisements really suit Lebanon?
Whether it’s for a Franchise or a local company, copying other countries’ advertisements or using whatever exists abroad as-is, is borderline idiotic. Lebanon is special from every angle. Throwing randomness before our eyes and hoping it will work…won’t! The market may be too small for the multinational’s taste but if anyone wants to succeed here, companies should start with having a good product and advertisers better:

  1. Speak to your target market in a “language” they can understand and relate to. (Includes image, words, audio etc…)
  2. Watch your target market react.
  3. Adjust to our reactions… Quickly!

There is plenty of creativity in Lebanon. They can do better!

Why don’t many understand that there is much more to an advertisement than heavy digital alterations?

Whose lips are those?? The borders of the lips don't seem to be attached to anything.

Tattoo and piercing places are adding tattoo and piercing images to the image of a body… as if no one would notice and the list of weird things one stumbles upon goes on and on. One word: LAME!

Advertisers are using and abusing women: Women on most advertisements of products and services for men, women and kids!
It is vain to try convince anyone that anything produced or any service provided is SOLELY targeting women. It is vain to try to convince anyone that women are the ONLY decision makers when it comes to a buying decision. It is again vain to try to convince anyone that there is only ONE type of women out there either!

A woman is wearing tires as a skirt... REALLY?

 This image above is not an advertisement. But a SIGN spotted on the way to NDU – Louaize. The sexy-car-wash-where-babes-sensually-wash-cars-while-men-are-watching is nonexistent in our culture… Tires! Where does the need to show a woman like that on a sign come from?

What’s with schizophrenic censorship? 
How come our movies get censored while some completely nude advertisements in local print magazines do not? Putting aside the fact that the whole idea of censorship is debatable and needs to be reviewed;   If controversy is what the advertiser is aiming for, it should be allowed for everyone else. Simply put: t
he way “guidelines” are applied need to be the same for everyone.

From the article: My misadventure at Aïshti, CityMall, Lebanon

Aishti’s advertisement in Femme Magazine seems to be directed to Khaleejis but it still doesn’t make sense. (Movies aren’t allowed to show breasts for more than 30-35 seconds)

What should be banned are those advertisements on the highway with a dissertation in tiny characters written over them. How come everyone forgets that the driver has barely 10 seconds to make sense of what he sees? Even if he was stuck in traffic; we are soaking in such a visual pollution, he will turn his head to look elsewhere.

Why don’t companies put their employees in the loop?
If advertisements are supposed to increase sales and customers’ sales transactions are made through sales people; how come the later are not aware of their own company’s advertisement? The point is that when sales is triggered by a certain reaction or emotion, sales people should be in loop in order to build on it… and in this regards, the reaction from Aishti to a question concerning their advertisement was deplorable.

Advertisements put without more serious considerations about location are made to fail. There is a problem though…we live in an advertising jungle in Lebanon. Mini poles on the highway bear the same advertisements more than 20 times. We saw it on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc… what is the point of the rest? Our streets have become infested!

Photo courtesy of

This building size advertisement can be seen on Dbayeh-Jounieh highway. Across the street, on the right, there is… St. Rita’s school. (That’s what your kid sees every morning on the way to school…)

Mail and SMS: Thanks if I asked for it. No thanks when there is no means to unsubscribe from this waste of energy.

E-mail: Some mass mailing keep on coming even after you unsubscribe although you never subscribed in the first place.

The content and location need to make sense altogether: Advertising a real estate project worth hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in a movie theater screening a movie for kids…Errr…Nope!

Why don’t you listen?
Some advertisers remain deaf and keep ignoring the community. One top-of-the-mind example is Clementine… with “Mon bijou, mon droit”, the “Fast” Internet for the Ministry of Telecom, “Do Re Mi Fa Soldes La Si” for Home City etc…which were not well received and had bloggers write about them.

Getting this straight, in my opinion, there are many things that are being  overlooked.

NONE, absolutely NONE of the ads I have seen in Lebanon for as long as I lived in it (16 years) actually triggered a purchase. NONE!

Impact of advertising
What about the social impact of advertising on people? Some ads get a chain reaction that sometimes backfires.

  • Since BankMed’s advertisement “Chou we2fit 3leyeh?”, people are using the phrase and abusing it to justify their dangerous and illegal actions.
  • MTC Touch’s advertisement for 3G “Bati2” may be funny, but now the word is on every tongue and has become THE word for most situations that people are faced with.
  • Clorets “Socialize – Facebook” advertisement has taken a different dimension when a group of friends made a “Like” stamp;  Imagine this one being used at the door of night clubs or let your imagination break loose… 😛

Lebanon advertising – a one way street
Lebanon’s billboards are loud. Sometimes they are shocking, sometimes they seem to tell us the same thing over and over as if we didn’t hear or see the first 50 times. These billboards talk to us and never hear the conversations in the passing cars. “I like that one.” Oh my God! Look at that!”

The absence of market analysis and true consumer feedback has allowed Lebanon’s ad agencies the freedom to direct advertising as they thought was best, that was until recently: Facebook became the go-to place to keep up with who was where and when, advertisers followed with ads to once again, tell the guy behind the wheel or behind the laptop what he should want next. Companies piled up “likes” and carefully managed the occasional not nice comments. Bloggers commented on their world and twitter was a new place to keep in touch.

Then, one fine morning, Lebanon had a “Eureka” moment, actually it was an “Exotica” moment. The normal exchanges of “Sabaho” or “Saba7o” went quickly as comments about Exotica’s Mother’s Day billboards took over twitter. Bloggers wrote, drew and photographed the ad campaign for all to see. The viral campaign that advertisers hope for was looking more like a virus, spreading from one computer to another. The verdict was in. Lebanon was unhappy with what they saw. Exotica had hit a nerve, the matching big noses of mother and daughter along with protruding ears of another mother and daughter was too much to bear. In one very united voice, the Lebanese Blogosphere spoke. They spoke on behalf of their families, friends, coworkers and classmates. They posted the comments of their readers. Exotica’s ad agency reached out to bloggers. The offending billboards were replaced with a less offensive version and the Lebanese Blogosphere gained a voice.

Before - Photo courtesy of

After - Photo courtesy of

Many billboards now feature social media icons and sometimes include a web address. There are online contests and photo contests asking you to “like” it.

Photo courtesy of

Advertisers reach out to bloggers. Their emails often begin with: Dear Blogger… followed by a request to review their product and talk about how much you like it assuming that you will like it, of course. Companies have created their own twitter accounts with press releases and offers in only 140 characters. Advertisers have discovered social media. They have discovered that they can reach a lot of people through social media. Each new ad campaign holds the promise of getting buzz and going viral. What they may not fully realize is they are now on a two-way street and “like” is not our only option.

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3 thoughts on “Advertising: The case of Lebanon

  1. I compare advertising in Lebanon to being stuck in a room with a bunch of advertisers, all trying to get your attention hoping you’d end up buying their product. Eventually everybody’s shouting and you just want to get the hell out of there.. Needless to say nobody’s message gets through.

    And you’re right, there is no conversation in advertizing, but what do you expect in a country whose surfaces are covered with billboards and posters.. There’s not much you can say to a billboard..

    Turns out we both had the same topic in mind this week, check out my post on Advertisement in Lebanon:

    Cheers ! 🙂

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