Monthly Archives: May 2012

(Research credits: Guest M, a super amazing reader!)

Inspired* campaigns: Banks, again!

By Admin I : Well it was kind of predictable, but we were hoping for a decreased number of plagiarism in this field especially after the current low season of advertising. Dear agency wannabes, if you think you can get away with a rip off like the one above, you’re totally wrong. Man! it’s 2012, we’re even beyond social media, beyond Tele-Liban’s “Yes” ads, beyond the passive behavior you’re expecting from the mass…

We’re not only seeing 2 versions of the same “Mazroukeh” concept, we’re seeing a duplicate concept for a very well known campaign released by Saatchi and Saatchi (M&C Saatchi now) back in 2007; the campaign won international awards, and got an overwhelming feedback.

So once again, dear agency wannabes, if your really insist on copying a campaign, choose a less known one, something done 10 years ago in Trinidad and Tobago for example (I’ve always wanted to stick that country’s name somewhere), choose a bit of a different concept and revisit it and if you really really want to copy, try to at least reach the visual level of the original ad, the art direction, the copywriting, the rhythm that you totally lack!

We were very positive that campaigns for Loans and banks are already in a redundant cycle that’s never ending, it’s the same hypocrite promise, done differently!

I sadly know I’m not going to miss this line for a long time: Cheers to originality!


AIGA Chicago commissioned short videos from designers around the world. They asked them about the places and techniques they use to do their work, to collaborate, to create. AIGA solicited a peek at their space and a taste of their vibe, delivered in whatever format they saw fit.

By Admin I : I knew about maajoun but being a bit of a pessimistic designer, I always thought that design studios in Lebanon vary between the too commercial leaning towards “design prostitution”, and what is too conceptual, struggling between the burdens of establishing a name and still preserving high design standards; a struggle indeed. This whole dilemma is definitely in the process of “remolding”, just like clay, “maajoun”.

ideas, type & design. We love type, design, words, challenge and exchange of thought. We also love coffee talks and good vibes. We hate strict rules, bureaucracy and stereotyping.

I recently got convinced that maajoun is finding a balance in the Lebanese design scene, it is basically because their initial idea was to find balance between commercial and self-initiated projects. Lara Balaa, a design practitioner and instructor labels her courses as “designer in context” dealing with cultural patterns, storytelling and other multidisciplinary orientations, which are also her fields of practice in maajoun, clearly shown in the AIGA chicago video.

Interesting type design experiences enriched by the socio-cultural drive of maajoun makes you really wonder about the true value of design practices. In this country, design is only a tool, an underestimated tool for other media, it is mainly the mediocrity of advertising that’s responsible of this unaware, unhealthy status quo.

Yes we do review advertising desperately seeking to spread design awareness, we’re wicked and overestimating our powers, but we strongly believe in that role. It’s reversed psychology taking form.

Being a designer in 2012 is this country in particular is not about visual work anymore. this field requires more than brochures, branding and 2d designers, we have a bigger role, we’re all social designers, whether we like it or not; the challenge is not anymore behind Adobe platforms, it is generated by the collective energy of people, their everyday life.. It is indeed moldable, adaptable and malleable just like clay.. “maajoun”.

Check the video above, and hold it as NO in the face of every design hypocrite!

maajoun is by: Lara Balaa, loves to observe and question the sense and the nonsense that surround her. She knows her way around visual communication, editorial, and Arabic type design. She also has a strong affinity for storytelling, research and writing.

Khajag Apelian: Being the charming rule-bender that he is, Khajag (aka KJ) loves challenge and often sees the glass as half-full. He’s got a sharp eye and much insight into book design, exhibition space, and multilingual type design


Domo sweet stories: nostalgia taking form!

By Admin I : Domo is a Lebanese brand famous for sweet products (ready made cake mixes, jelly, and other delicious chemicals with too much sugar) but more importantly the brand is known to be present at nearly every Lebanese house since ages, we all had some and still look stupidly happy when remembering how mothers used to prepare birthdays themselves, back then, Ronald McDonald was not even around and “jungle land” was, umm a real jungle!

Anyways, Domo is advertising; and who are they kidding, the brand is in serious trouble because of consumers’ behavior changes, but who cares, the campaign will surely boost some sales, looking at the fact that it was designed to play on nostalgic memories. Yes, true, it’s like the ad number 1 zillion going in the same direction: a nostalgic approach, a fun emotional copywriting job, and a low sat colorful art direction. fine! But for some reason it works super well here!

The whole approach looks tailor-made, and tailor made for me is when it fits the product and this product only. it’s quite emotional but doesn’t really push your cheesy buttons, it’s well executed but not too artistic, it’s a blend of the right ingredients used responsibly!

Domo succeeds promoting a personal intimate image, taking everyone in a journey full of memories, tacky birthdays and messed up sweets.. “Sweet stories/ qussas helwe” has definitely set the right tone for the right product even though making you “sigh, smile” does not necessarily drive you to buy.. still.. sigh, smile!

McDonald’s “Tastes of the world”

Review upon request.

By Admin R : McDonald’s has maintained recently an extensive advertising campaign. In addition to the additional media (Tv and radio: from 12 till 3), , the online media has played a central role in the company’s advertising strategy.

The tastes of the world, a new concept that McDonald’s underwent to bring to us taste sensations from across the globe.

McDonald’s Arabia embedded their Facebook page with a fun interactive application that enables fans to create posters inspired from the Tastes of The World. (It’s more like fotofunia or magur pic, nothing innovative, why did I write fun by the way?!)

Okay let’s focus a little bit, the ads are entertaining, making you wonder at first, then you realise the purpose and the product. This approach is way better that the “Melhem Barakat” spot aired in Lebanon few months ago pretending to target the mass; back then the ad was as useless as the offer!

Tastes of the world introduced the Spanish, the Arabic, the Asian and other versions all playing on very popular stereotypes of drama series, the Arabic series cliches and the dubbed Mexican ones we grew up watching. Super interesting, funny and well executed keeping the “pop” twist to the product in general without going tacky. A note for McDonald’s Lebanon, pop does mean overacting, it is the essence of what a certain culture is made of, and exposed to.

Tastes of the world is super super tasty!

Tannoura Maxi – Heels of war: The review

By Admin I :So I had the chance, let’s say to watch the movie one day before its irrelevant nonsense ban, and during the past two days, I also read some reviews published in newspapers and all around the Lebanese blogosphere, so let me start with two side notes: we don’t usually review movies, not because we don’t have the potential to (we’re visual divas, we can do it all) but because controversy and mystery is an added value to any artwork, yet this time is indeed different. I might sound rude (I always do, I know) but if you’re a blogger that is desperate for a post about anything, if you’re not capable to review arts and design matters, please avoid over doing the fun, you’re not funny when you show up your ignorance, you’re not funny when you go to the movies expecting a fast-food film from a Lebanese director that is known for a certain style, that you probably know nothing about, this applies as well to journalists… enough bullshit, stick to food reviews!

Let’s jump to the review:

The background:

I know you might not be very familiar with the Lebanese “commercial” visual scene (I know you are), let me introduce you to two names, and their “baby”. It all started with Nadine Labaki, known for an authentic real feel in her videos, an intimate approach that we like to name the “good caliber of commercial”. Nadine’s works like many others were art directed by Yehya Saade, who became a director at a later stage. Yehya works on symbolism and surrealism with an edgy controversial approach. The visual baby is Joe bou Eid (not an insult, I would say if it was); Joe had the blend between the authentic, the symbolic and the surreal, which didn’t help him establish an identity at first.

Yes I primarily think that “Tannoura Maxi” has a lot from Nadine, and a lot from Yehya, and a bit from Khaled mouzannar (even though Mike Massy did a splendid job with the music) but what’s more important, is that it revealed Joe’s personal identity.

I super like when someone celebrates his ego. It’s beyond amazing! It takes balls to stick to your beliefs and influences, to bluntly express them and never care. It takes so much ego to release a non-commercial movie right after “w halla’ lawen” and still never care about the comparison. It takes so much self-awareness to know that your first movie wouldn’t appeal to the mass, ego ego ego, you got my RESPECT!

The movie was simply interesting. It is when you come out of the theater not being able to say “I like, or I hate” it is the kind that makes you “hmmm” and end it with “interesting”.  If Tannoura maxi did not make sense to you, then you totally missed the imaginative journey that Bou Eid tried to take you on, you failed to let go. You still suffer from what Pierre Abi Saab called the “Labaki Syndrome”.

Tannoura Maxi is like you all know, the director’s parents’ story, art directed by the mother herself, adding a major shot of fantasy and symbolism.

We’re not saying the movie is perfect, it indeed has rhythm and dialogue issues, even though the silent interaction between the two lead roles is beyond captivating. The advertising campaign unlike the movie lacked art direction and posters had the worst type treatment ever. The movie is full of deja vus and stereotypes, visually blows to the fullest, with total awareness from the filmmaker’s side, so if you think you spotted those missteps, you are definitely wrong!

Interesting Joe, it is super interesting being able to make what you want, the way you see it, with no craving for award shows nor public acceptance. Kudos!

Daniel A: Our culture never had an authentic visual identity / In order for our culture to evolve in the visual world it has to accept and encourage its individuals and their beliefs / Taboos, principles and religion have somehow shadowed the right to creation, which should be given to all.

Hassan-Kamel Sabbah: Contributing with Lebanese minds and talents allows us to stand as “different” from other production houses / Some creatives submit to stereotypes and draw by the line.

Brofessional Talks 001: Daniel A. a Lebanese emerging talent

Admin I : So we’re finally having a fresh breeze of creativity, advertising-free, with a Lebanese talent working hard to redefine “Art Direction” as a solid ground for every creative practice. Daniel A and Hassan-Kamel Sabbah joined forces to establish a new creative house, based on their different yet complementary experiences in the visual field.

What intrigued to me to feature Daniel A as a photographer/art director is that i’ve been silently observing this talent, watching its evolution and growth, simply because I’m done going to the extremes defending Lebanese creatives that disappoint me in a very short amount of time. Work becomes redundant, repetitive and “la creme de la creme” sadly become sour. Daniel proved a growing path, a distinctive visual style that play on the fine line between identity and repetition.

We had the chance to interview Daniel and Hassan for our first “Brofessional talk”; enjoy: 

Daniel A.:

  • How can you reformulate the concept of “Art direction” in general and associated with photography in particular, since it’s becoming somehow misused and abused by art director wannabes?

  • It’s simple: communicating an idea or any desired message through visuals. However, it is misused by wannabes because their focus is purely visual, without a solid conceptual base. I believe that design in all its fields is about finding solutions for the society’s needs. Our culture never had an authentic visual identity that represents the variety and the interesting cultural mix forming our Lebanese scene. Beauty is sometimes wrongly perceived in preconceived images that almost no one questioned nor tried to change for the better.
  • Your style stands out as “minimal glamour, the “less is more” of photography” with a dramatic European influence, (correct me if I’m wrong) how did it evolve to reach that stage?

  • I certainly agree with the concept of “less is more” that I apply in my work. Whereas for my style, I believe that photography is a subjective matter and rarely an objective one; you can feel drama, passion or luxury, it depends on what I was experiencing during that shoot. What is fun about my job is how each one perceives it; many see my style as dreamy while others see it as romantic. Every person perceives a same photo differently; Art has no boundaries in the end.
    I can’t really talk about an evolvement since my journey in photography is still short. When I was in Paris I was doing my masters degree in art direction and then an internship at McCann Erickson for the L’Oreal account where I found my true passion for fashion and luxury. I was extremely influenced by their perception of beauty, how they treated it with simplicity.
    One day I decided to practice some of what I gained in Paris, I did the “Goût du vent” and the rest is history.
  •  Being Lebanese, how can we invest in our culture, taking visual arts, and photography in particular, and what in general intrigues you to shoot or get inspired from, in the Lebanese society?
  • In order for our culture to evolve in the visual world it has to accept and encourage its individuals and their beliefs. It has to give them the freedom of being whoever they want to be and experiencing life as is. I believe that every one of us has a great potential with remarkable differences and that we only need to be encouraged. We should always be in harmony with our own convictions and values; this is how true artists are made. Taboos, principles and religion have somehow shadowed the right to creation, which should be given to all. This is why we should embrace our own style while learning from many great influences such as the European ones and creating a unique blend that will be known as “Lebanese”, which will reflect our own personal touch and a piece of our identity. Lebanese photographers can’t find Lebanese references to be inspired from, so why don’t we for instance, start being our own references by doing our own thing, believing in our own capacities then spreading them throughout the world celebrating differences and honoring our common ground.
  • I can’t really name one thing that intrigues me to shoot in our society; it’s more like experiencing certain feelings in a certain place at a certain moment that inspires me the most. People I meet can inspire me, their character or their way of being and behaving.
Hassan-Kamel Sabbah:
  • Being known for your work for Plastik magazine ( BEYOND PRODUCTION ), how are you willing to establish a new production house that stands out as “different” but still can earn the same success that Plastik had?
  • After 4 years of experience in Beyond Production, I have learned a lot of things that will allow me to establish a new and unique production house. Opening a new company gives you the chance to create your own vision by showing your creative side and exploring the potential that makes each one of us so special. We are a very ambitious team, with a very promising future perspective, and have a lot of potential that will allow us to implement our creativity in all our work while maintaining high professional standards.
  • I believe that everyone has his own identity and in order to succeed one has to stand out from the crowd using all of the tools at hand. I will thus rely on my past experience adding my own personal touch, in all of the jobs that the new production house will be handling, which will allow me to be more free in my choices and decisions in order to successfully deliver the job requested.
  • Although the work of Plastik magazine is a totally respected and admirable one, our sources of inspiration are totally different; we mainly get inspired from the place we live in, while working on international standards, adding an exotic touch to our Lebanese projects.  We therefore focus on working with great emerging local talents creating a mutual supportive network and that is what makes all of the difference in our company’s work. Contributing with Lebanese minds and talents is thus another thought that portrays our differences, and allows us to stand as “different” from other production houses.
  • How do you evaluate the creative scene in Lebanon, talking stereotypes, creativity and cultural interactivity with the mass?
  • There is definitely a notable change in the creative scene in Lebanon, although it is subject to scrutiny by the government on some levels. Some creatives submit to stereotypes and draw by the line, in a subtle way when it comes to interacting with the mass. However, I do believe that several individuals are getting out of their comfort zone, creating a change that can be both shocking but effective when it comes to cultural interactivity.
  • influence/motto/favorite figures/a crazy thing you say, you do or you feel like doing.
  • I’m very influenced by characters I see in the movies (French movies / anime from the 80’s) , furniture , paintings.
  • I don’t really have a motto, I prefer life giving me lessons.
  • I really like Cyril Collard , Nathan Coley , Hayao Miyazaki , Henri Duparc , indie music also inspires me a lot.
  • Since I’m very spontaneous, everything I do is crazy.
Check Daniel and Hassan’s latest project: Blues of Red:
A CONTRIBUTION OF 10 EXQUISITE PIECES FROM 10 PROMINENT LEBANESE FASHION DESIGNERS ( Lara Khoury , Krikor Jabotian , Cera Barage , Pavoni , Moe K , Peach and Powder , Pastel Creations , Joanna Laura Constantine , Dina Khalife , U by Hala & Lea ) WITH MAKE UP ARTIST CHRISTIAN ABOU HAIDAR WORKING HIS MAGIC.

Video Directed, Shot & Edited : Ralph Arida
Art Director/Photographer : Daniel A
Production : Hassan-Kamel Sabbah

We’re  proud of you guys, and we sincerely hope to see you investing in the local scene, with local designers. Let us for once be ourselves and work on creating what you called the “Lebanese blend”, the single most important gap in our field… You’re a true inspiration for our readers!

Gout du vent – Daniel A.

Packaging 001: From Chocolate to baby poop!

By Admin N : What do you do when you want to advertise yourself but you don’t really want to advertise? You introduce a new package of course! And that is exactly what Patchi did, regardless of the fact that most people didn’t even know what their old package looked like, at least we didn’t (we barely eat expired Galaxy).

If you live in Lebanon, it would’ve been practically impossible to miss it, that light shade of baby poop cannot go unnoticed, it’s everywhere! It haunts you while driving, while walking, to remind you of how a brand can simply lose itself while uplifting. See, Patchi had this beautiful, very elegant minimal single die line box, with dark tones of color. Somehow the designer thought it would be smart to change it to a hideous shade of green that looks so SO unappetizing. I mean everyone knows that the color scheme when it comes to food is very delicate; what were they thinking? And what I also don’t understand is why they would go from a simple costless die line to a two-part box that probably costs the double, are they thinking of changing the price? Or are they making so much profit that they could afford to make such costly boxes?

Fine, let’s say Patchi wanted a fresher look and a memorable color, that’s cool, but come on! They could’ve at least bothered themselves to create different versions of the color so it would look unified everywhere. The box itself has a different tonality than the chocolate wrapping (a shiny metallic Pantone), the billboards look very yellowish (they probably missed the right conversion to CMYK) and that huge promotional installation in ABC mall is just a mess. And oh gawd! Those hands! Someone didn’t even bother to illustrate them properly *tsk tsk tsk*. Design 101: never use vectors, NEVER!

So people, the lesson to be learnt here is the following: if you plan to uplift your brand, please do it properly, don’t make it worse than what it used to be. Deal?!