Back in the good old days, advertising was a life enhancer. Situations depicted a better life, a better family, a better job, etc. Even tobacco advertising, thought to be healthy back then, was about the real good things in life.

Marlboro ad – On Flickr by Todd Mecklem

Today, advertising stopped enhancing life and started enhancing situations. Indirectly, instead of showing you how to better your life, advertising is showing you how much your existing life sucks. How? Simply by enhancing situations in an unattainable way, or even worse, using situations you will never experience.

So instead of telling you how good life is and how to make it even better, advertising is telling how much your life sucks, and how worse it will get!

Advertising killed the fun.

Having said that, good advertising still pops here and there, but in the clutter of life-smashing, fun-killing ads, it can hardly be noticed.

In my early days of advertising, the toughest question in a creative brief was “why will they believe you?”. We used to scratch our heads for hours in the quest to answer it. Today, the answer might as well be “who cares”.

Citymall ad – from ibloga.blogspot.com

I will not expand my wrath beyond the Lebanese territory, and for a good reason, we are by excellence the right place to look in for cheesy, stupid, useless and utterly meaningless advertising that indulges in cheap plagiarism. Hell! We can’t even copy other’s concepts right! We are by excellence the market where any “so called” advertising agency or “self-proclaimed” ad-man can get away with ads like “Mon bijou, mon droit” for a jewelry shop of even worse “Look at my wallpaper, I said wallpaper”…

Moukarzel ad – from blogbaladi.com

We are probably the only market in the world were advertising regulations revolve around “trying” to win trophies instead of helping clients sell… and still get away with it.

I am ashamed to state that I once was an ad-man.

It used to take us years to mature and acquire the skills to create ads with an oomph. It used to take us years to climb the creativity ladder. Today, we’re simply climbing that ladder down, following clients that are already way down, instead of lending a hand to them and bringing them up. Never the race for a quick buck has been more cheap.

We simply prostituted the advertising industry! And to make things worse, we’ve exported it to the Arab world!

We still use women to sell wallpaper. We still use men to cheapen women. We still use children to sell milk. We still use politics, God! Politics…. to sell everything else! How low can we go?

I look at ads from the 50’s were women were told to cook and clean the house to keep their husbands happy and it revolts me. Trust me, I am far less revolted at these ads in comparison to what is being produced today. Telling a woman to stay at home is by far better than asking her to be a hooker who sells wallpaper, try to make her believe that her only freakin’ right is her jewels, or use her bust to promote cable TV!! Come to think about it, I wonder how these women accept to feature in these ads, but that’s another story.

Cablevision ad – from beirutdriveby.blogspot.com

There will never be a solution to the Lebanese problems, neither political nor social, and you know why? There are simply not enough brains to trigger change, and if there are brains, they’re busy exteriorizing their sexual fantasies on billboards, rooftops and quarter pages.

To a certain extent I don’t blame them. I blame a stupider client who has never worried about developing a personal marketing culture or at least breed one in his organization. Clients are the ones who pay, and it amazes me how they don’t even evaluate their return on investment based on the level of mediocrity an advertising can attain.

Both the advertising industry and the clients have helped breed the culture of mediocrity by being complacent, indulging or accepting copycats, and settling for the lesser. Although we’re witnessing today a weak attempt (or what I call a nice try) to change things, the Lebanese advertising industry, once the leader in the Arab world, has become like most of our other innovations. We pioneered television and sank to dante’s hell. We pioneered the internet and brought it to a halt. We bred the finest in advertising, and made them wish they never existed.

Diet shisha ad – from tobaccocontrol.bmj.com

If and when (actually more if than when) the industry picks up again, it will simply look just like the internet in Lebanon, finally working but centuries behind. What a shame.

That’s probably why, we’re not doing anything with the political system in Lebanon. For us, it’s simply business “as usual”!

© 2010 Ibrahim Lahoud


  1. March 21, 2011 at 16:34

    Perfectly said and I’m the number one example of that. I’m getting hurt by those systems in so many ways I’m actually trying my best to flee…yeah I do I really have a chance or a choice?
    I know the cheap “one man show” system added to the political (of course, its Lebanon the great nation of filth), to the cheap and unprofessional….in arabic: The Ma3mal khyata.

    But Lebanon for me has sold itself…in everything. We’re a “number one” stop in world prostitution, drug traffics, “new and improved Sh*t”,Cigarettes are still cheaper than food, people drive like freaks running from a mad hospital, a political constitution that has been sold to international temporary treaties, and divisions that go beyond a religion itself. We’re exposed, naked, out there chilling in a world ever developing and changing to a colder, and more interest-driven.

    Communication in this country? what communication? Lebanese don’t even know how to talk together anymore!

  2. March 21, 2011 at 16:46

    I often used to ask myself, is it because we know the other side that it feels less glamorous, or is my gut feeling true and true artistry and professionalism is lost.

    I look at so many new campaigns that embrace the real woman, or the ‘normal people’ abroad. But in the middle east we are still try to cheesily sugar coat and over-glamorize it.
    And the worst part is that those ads only damage brands and as you send only throw everything even lower down the ladder, whilst raving press releases and glamorous award events procreate the lie.

    I wish for improvement as a consumer and as someone working in a conjunctive industry.

  3. 3 Octavia
    March 21, 2011 at 20:59

    Very depressing post.. All the points are true and speak to most of us. However, wish you had offered some solutions instead of just criticizing Eby. This is much too serious a problem to just complain about and get people to agree with the rant. That would be too easy, anyone can do it, albeit not as eloquently as you can.

    I, for one, am interested in knowing how we can change this awful trend or reverse it. I’d love to hear from the “experts” on ways to help the advertising industry in Lebanon and the region reclaim its luster by playing its intended role again.

    I also would’ve loved to see some examples of good advertising practices to compare the above-awful ones to. It’s only fair, as (I’m sure you agree) many agencies work tirelessly to produce good decent ads that serve the client and the consumer very well.

  4. 4 Fadi
    March 21, 2011 at 21:17

    The opening of this post reminded me of the series “How TV ruined your life”. (example here)
    I don’t think the problem is limited to Lebanon. We are more prone to cheap advertising given the wave of cultural retardation we seem to live in, but this type of advertising is quite widespread around the world, it’s the fact that quality advertising is more common (or less of a rare occurrence) in other places of the world that makes you overlook the bad stuff that comes out of there as well..

  5. March 22, 2011 at 08:57

    Ibrahim, I totally agree with you… Except for the fact I seriously think that some of us ARE trying to do something about it… I wish my ego was more developed than that so that I can brag about my blog the way other “self proclaimed ad-men” do about their work. But seriously, I believe that Beirut/NTSC is trying in its own way to rectify the record straight.
    Besides, you really forget that the problem does not juist stem from today – the “advertising greats” who made a killing in the 90s did not build a system, they offered a “haret kil min ido elo” which is why we did not enjoy the fruits of the boom of the 90s – simply because everyone was trying to take the bigger share of the cake, bribe the next Phenix award or whatever have you.
    I agree with everyone who commented above, specifically Octavia. Instead of just complaining, let’s try to do something constructive about it. Let’s talk, openly, and out in the open. And whenever there is a theft, let’s talk about it loud and clear no matter who the thief is!

  6. March 25, 2011 at 23:16

    So I take it your happy that you made the switch to branding? 😀

  7. March 25, 2011 at 23:17

    That’s an interesting idea for a post actually..walk us through how you made the transition from an Ad Man to a Brand Man. 😀

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Reason To Believe by Ibrahim N. Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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