Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Coffee with Leo Burnett Chicago Planner, Tamer Kattan

DC: Tamer you had a stint in Dubai before you moved to LB Chicago…thus a compare and contrast question is due. I asked this to Brenda earlier, how would you describe the current level of planning in the UAE region?

TK: I think the level of strategic planning in any regions advertising industry is directly connected to the number of perspectives and opinions that can be witnessed, shared and discussed by planners (drum
roll) outside of the office. The ability to leave the office, and to look at a question differently not necessarily to find the answer is important.
Example: Oh, you've been the planner on Kelloggs for a year and don't know how to talk about the cereal in a new way? How about speaking to a blind person (better yet - a focus group of blind people) and hearing how they describe the smell, taste, texture, etc etc etc of corn flakes.
Can I leave a predominantly Lebanese agency, Lebanese opinion, Lebanese upbringing, Lebanese perspective at a time when it means so much more to be Lebanese - can I go outside to a restaurant, a cafe, a clothing store and get a British, Philipino, American, Female, Gay, blind, deaf, young, old, married, Japanese, Indian perspective on a problem?
In Dubai the answer is yes, in the rest of the UAE...I don't know.

DC: So where is it headed?

TK: Dubai should be one of the best planning cities in the world. Period.
More impressive than any architectural wonder is the ability of so many different cultures and ways of life to co-exist...happily. If Arab planners stay "Arab", they will not improve. It was Socrates who said:
"I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world".
If you believe in this statement than you are no longer a Lebanese planner, no longer a planner from Dubai or the UAE, or Chicago, NYC or London.
Regions should not be attached to critical thought (unless you're advertising a regional product of course). I think the greatest thing a planner can do to constantly improve is to exercise non-regional thinking.

DC: Do you feel planners are valued as much as they are in the west?

TK: I think that is 100% up to the individual planner. And if we must focus on a region - I think in many ways you are ahead of the West. If we went back thousands of years, planners, thinkers, philosophers would be alive and well in Rome, Persia, India, Egypt, Greece and the rest of the Middle East...Western society didn't even exist.

DC:What do you believe the planner of the future is?

TK: Be still my heart - we may migrate Client side. The planning process has proven to be critical before we speak to consumers, I believe clients will start to see that the value of the process is just as valuable in directing, creating new products, new offerings and new services.
listening deeply to consumers will affect product/services development much more.

DC: When looking to recruit a young lippy planner, what elements do you search for?

TK: His ability to disagree with me. Have balls. I want someone who offers a different opinion, passion and fun.

DC: First thing you might ask someone in an interview situation?

TK: Its gotten me into trouble, but I ask who they voted for in the elections and why? I ask controversial questions and when I find a topic that we disgree on I ask them to justify their decision...No right or wrong answer, just how well can you support your point?

DC: Name me 3 of your favourite campaigns that have 'planner' written all over 'em.

TK: Thats like saying name me 3 of your favorite illusions that have magician written all over 'em! If I can see the planning, then it wasn't good to me :-). I like the strategy to be invisible.
- The Guardian (UK Newspaper) - Skinhead running at someone, you assume he's a criminal ends up saving the persons life - we give you all the perspectives
- Amul (India) if you don't know them:
- Anna's massage - (Chicago) A guy walks around with a sandwich board attached to his body. He does this crazy, vey fluid, liquid looking dance...looks like he's riding a very loose skateboard and the sandwiche board reads: "Wanna feel this good? - 15th floor Anna's massage and herbal therapy"

DC: A privilege Tamer, good luck in Chicago!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Old School Ad men and new media...

I was reading through a friend of mines blog and he made a really valid point, more applicable to our region than his (London). Most agency’s are led by what some may dub the traditional ad men, the older generation. These are the guys who might have their name behind the receptionist neatly adjacent to some other dead blokes. These are the guys that understand why the line was divided between the A&L and B&L. These are the guys that use outdated jargon like USP and TVC. They are the old school ad men.

They are the brilliant men of middle and top management that started and now head all large networks in the region, true industry pioneers. But, despite the innumerable stacks of respect I have for them truth be told, they just don’t get new media. Haven’t a clue about anything mildly related to digital, blogs SMS, virals and anything that is not printed or not on TV.

So I wondering, in the next ten years digital will become arguably one of the most important mediums. As the next generation of middle and upper management, are we preparing ourselves for the change in times? Can most account executives articulate the basics on the depth of online branding? Can the director utter more than “yeah we should do some online” to the question, “what about the web?” If the management fountain of wisdom hasn’t a clue, where oh where do we drink to survive and better yet prepare for a tech frenzied future? Anyone who’s serious about this industry best have on their web Favorites.
Cue training montage...

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Saatchi & Saatchi Dubai Planner, Brenda Kassir on Etisalat

I like to listen to classical music in the mornings. This morning my laptop tunes into my favourite Italian radio station and I’m awoken from peaceful slumber by the soothing sounds of Filippa Giordano. The Etisalat portal is my connection to my world, the wonders of modern technology. Last month Etislat introduced a new service which lets me programme the internet to wake me up to the tune of my favourite radio stations from around the world by beginning live streaming at 6.00am for half an hour as I wrestle to get out of bed in the morning. I feel so connected to the world.

My day commences with breakfast as I scan the morning news pages over the Internet. Once again the Etisalat portal is my guide to the world. It conveniently summarises the front pages of the major world newspapers and includes the news, weather and events of the day in the UAE. I’m up to speed.

My husband lovingly reminds me that I make us late in the mornings and sure enough today is no exception. At 8am we are in a rush and we hop into the car and join the morning rush. In order to avoid an argument I quickly open my laptop in the car and connect to the Internet using the wireless system in our car. Being a company that keeps people connected to the world around them Etisalat have launched a new live traffic monitor service. You just type in your current location and intended destination and using their satellite technology Etisalat will plot a map of the area between the two locations with traffic density shown. This way you can choose the least dense road to get you to work relatively hassle free. I tell you this company is streets ahead.

Whilst I’m browsing the site, I look up the ‘What’s on Dubai’ section on the Etisalat portal and find out that there are still tickets for tonight’s performance of Swan Lake at Madinat Jumeirah so I reserve two seats using the Etisalat reservation scheme. I don’t need to type in all my details, as that is part of the privilege of being an Etisalat loyal customer. We get discounts to the performance too. Nice one.

Of course, this modern convenience doesn’t involve an exorbitant amount of money. You see, my husband and I have a great deal with Etisalat. They really understand our lifestyle and heavy telecommunications usage. Their new customer segmentation (youth, young couples/single, young families, older families) gives people the package that best suits their needs. The plan we are on identifies us as a modern young couple and we get:

· 2 mobile phone numbers. We don’t need a home phone line as these same numbers work as a fixed line when we are at home, saving us call costs.
· Of course international roaming is part of this deal and it comes without the need for a deposit as both of us are heavy travellers and we have been loyal Etisalat customers.
· Wireless home Internet connection.
· All these services are bundled together as one package on one monthly bill that comes via email (to save the trees). The bill is extremely user friendly and clearly identifies charges and potential savings. We are also part of the Etisalat loyalty scheme linked to Emirates Airlines and a host of other restaurants, cafes, hotels, fashion stores, supermarkets etc.
I arrive at work and remember I have a video conference with our Saudi office in 15 minutes. I prepare my laptop to use my voice over internet protocol. This allows me to dial into our Saudi office using my laptop. It’s great because there is no lag and it means I can send documents to them as we speak. It also means I can be working on my document as I’m speaking to them and searching the Internet at the same time J.

I call my husband at lunchtime and in our morning rush he thinks he left the air conditioning and the lights on at home. Being concerned about the amount of energy we waste I act quickly. I launch the Etisalat portal and connect to the ‘My House’ section. This is a wonderful online system that lets us control the temperature, lighting, television and refrigerator at home. Etisalat together with leading technology players Nokia, Apple, Fujitsu and LG have developed wireless satellite technology that links all these instruments together via an online plan of the house. The beauty of the LG fridge is that I can see what supplies we have in the fridge and order things through the linked Etisalat/Spinneys website which allows me to get my items home delivered when I choose.

The day drags on. As a relief from clients who want “a strategy for how to launch a new tomato flavoured potato chip which is identical to competitors but nevertheless wish to talk about the exceptional and differentiated fresh bright red colour which they are convinced will capture consumers interests, and only wish to use TV and print and still want to beat the long established market leader!” I check out the Etisalat music section and download Mary J. Bligh’s latest album. Serenity now.

Exhausted and wondering what the hell I accomplished today and how many useless conversations I’ve had, I head home. Later that night we decide to watch a movie but we watched La Belle Epoque last Sunday and there aren’t any new movies in our movie stash. So we get onto the Etisalat Portal once again and whilst I make some tea my husband downloads the new release of Fanaa off the Etisalat movie link.

I love Etisalat. It is in tune with my world. It recognises that today communications is more than fixed lines, mobile phones, internet, SMS, video messages, it’s about staying connected to the world around us. This means multi-media, wireless applications, technology convergence, multi purpose gadgets, multi purpose websites, multi service offerings, entertainment, web chats, web logs. I want to be able to make a movie on my phone and upload it onto the Internet immediately – it could be the next short film winner and there is no time to lose.

Although Etislat has had a monopoly in this market for thirty years it constantly innovates. In fact, together with the alliances it has formed with other strong U.A.E brands like Emirates Airlines, Dubai National Bank and Emaar it is taking the U.A.E into the forefront of modern civilisation and technology. Etisalat is a mature, worldly company with substance. It’s not a fad. It’s not ‘cool’. It’s confident, visionary, modern, intelligent and cultured. Just like a leader should be.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

saw some similarities in these two campaigns in terms of art direction, logo is bottom right on both ads. Most of the copy is on the bottom of the ad. Both ads are predominantly white. Then again it might be a stretch...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sunday Bashing.

I hate Sundays, particularly this one. And what better subject to be talking about today then how cr*p 'Face2Face' is and what I'm going to do about it.

I'm not going to delve into the work on Rani (covered in the "Ok, everyone stop clapping for a second..."post. We established what a poor attempt at a rip it is...

Bashing the latest Ford 4x4 spot which looks more like an in house ad isn't going to do it either. (I assume they are behind it)

Niether do I want to ramble on about how Matt Stone and Trey Parker of Southpark would be too ashamed to sue.

Instead, Im going to boycott all products advertised by Face2Face...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Etisalat start early?

All of a sudden the catatonic becomes the extrovert who wont shut up.

Any advice for the Etisalat marketing director?

Monday, May 15, 2006

Incognit-O(Monday Resident)- Lip Service or Truth

Has anyone else gotten really bored from reading Campaign these past few weeks?

Don’t get me wrong. I love the publication. They have great stuff a lot of the times (this week’s article on the new creative hot-shop in New York – Anomaly – is particularly recommended).

Yet it seems like every week there’s some new agency boss or newly hired creative director that has been sent to their agency – or our region for that matter – as some sort of self glorified savior.

Every week.

Week in.

Week out.

There is someone who is there to lecture us all on what we are so obviously doing wrong and how they plan on shaking the industry up and setting new standards.

I love the enthusiasm, really. I do.

But is anyone else sick and tired of being told how bad we are?

Let me re-phrase that. We’re not actually bad – we’re just held down with so many limitations, being in the Middle East and all.

We’re constantly reminded how many limitations in this region we have.


“Cultural sensitivities”

“Several nationalities”

“Marketing across several borders and regions”

“Language barriers”

“People don’t read”

“People aren’t that intelligent”

“Not to mention Saudi”

Yet as Ma’an said in his Coffee Chat with DC – it’s all crap.

This region is different. This region is full of different limitations, challenges and gems that you would find in other regions.

And even more so – it will be those very limitations & challenges unique to this region that will push our creativity even further. Simply because we have no other choice.

Now, before I start sounding like one of the weekly saviors in Campaign, here’s a thought I’d like to open for discussion:

The Far East (in terms of the advertising world) used be known as the place for ad-people who couldn’t cut it where it counted. ‘Rejects’ or even talented people who couldn’t find a job in the UK or US would flee to Singapore & Malaysia because there was less competition.

Now of course, the Far East is one of the fastest growing in the industry. Awards left and right – and some of the hottest creative hot-shops would also like to open up there.

Lately in Campaign, we’ve had the likes of Sir Martin Sorell and others talk about Dubai and the Middle East following suite and becoming the next ‘hot spot’.

Naturally this region is growing and growing fast.

Lip service or truth? What are your thoughts…

Also if anyone has been in the Far East, do share some interesting stories…

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Coffee with Lowe Dubai Copy Writer, Ma'n Abutaleb

DC: What role do Arabic copywriters currently have in the region?

MA: A passive one at best. Arabic writers in this market are on the receiving end. They get handed the idea - whether for print, outdoor, TV etc - and then they force it into Arabic. Arabic writers rarely participate during the thinking stages, and when they do, their contribution is minimal.

The reason behind this sad state of affairs is that agencies want it this way for penny-pinching reasons, and the writers think that this is the way it should be. Arabic writers translate. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure it falls under polished labels such as adapting, rewriting and “arabizing”, but that’s all crap. It is precise, safe, politically correct translation.

DC: Someone made a comment on the scarcity of Arabic conceptiualizers in the region. Do you feel the region holds an abundance of Arabic conceptualizers.

MA: They are very scarce indeed. And anyone who argues against this should just take a look around at all the advertising being produced. The good advertising is in English, and its “arabized” version hardly works.

Some have a way around this, and it’s called the visual pun. Sham of all shams. Visual puns hardly ever work in English or Arabic. Using an element of the Arabic culture like a cup of coffee in a visual pun – we’ve all seen that a million times - does not carry an idea. It is a shallow, overused form of advertising that the whole world has put behind. Yet here it is the first and favourite solution.

What we lack is idea driven advertising, that is born from contemporary Arab culture and that recognizes its potential as a rich source of inspiration.

DC: So if you owned your own agency and had full autonomy to hire, fire and structure, what would be different from the traditional agency?

MA: I would set up a department that develops ideas relevant to the market. Irrespective of the language used. The department would comprise of Copywriters (without a preceding adjective) Art directors, and planners. Planners play a huge part in developing ideas that are relevant to the market. And yes they will – and already are in many world-leading agencies – work as part of the creative team.

I would separate Editors and have them as a team of their own and as part of the studio. Those guys will be responsible for all the brochures and proofreading.

The creative head that runs the department will have to trust his Arabic conceptualizers and see the potential within the local culture to inspire great advertising.

DC: Arabic is known to be much richer than the English language, how would adapting the other way work? By adapting Arabic poetry to English the results would be much poorer than the other way around. Your thoughts on this?

MA: The Arabic language is indeed very rich, and was one of the richest languages in the world. But I doubt this is true at the moment. English– being the dominant language – developed at great speed and acquired new lingo that enables it to serve the growing arrays of communication. Arabic on the other hand - which was definitely richer than English when the Arabs and the Muslims were at the frontier of cultural and scientific developments - have failed in the past decades to evolve and add new vocabulary that convey new notions, concepts, even descriptions, and of course technical terms.

The fact that classic Arabic is not used anymore and was replaced by many different accents doesn’t help either. Still, this is gradually changing now, and there is a version of the language that’s picking up slowly. We don’t really feel it, but it’s there. If you listen to some of the football matches now, the commentary is done in a subtle, beautiful, very accessible classic/slang Arabic that everyone understands and relates to. Even in contemporary Arabic literature, this new form of Arabic is being used more and more and is gaining in popularity, and this is the Arabic we should use in advertising.

DC: Some marketers insist that Arab consumers don’t read period!, Your thoughts?

MA: This one is a favourite amongst idea killers. And it’s absolute bullshit. This claim is not based on any kind of research whatsoever, and is just a way to hide behind bad advertising.

If this claim is true, then who reads all the newspapers out there, who reads all the daily columns, who reads the sports page and the horoscopes, who reads the business news and who buys all these Arabic magazines and books out there. Or is it that all journalists, poets, writers novelists and reporters are living a big lie and they’re oblivious to the fact that their work goes straight to the trash.

There are new magazines and publications in Arabic everyday, and they have a market and they are successful. To the purveyors of this condescending, rude, unsupported assumption I say, write something interesting enough, and people will read it.

DC: Any advice for Arabic creatives trapped in translating houses?

MA: First of all, think why you got into advertising in the first place - since you’re interested in your job enough to read this blog - you’ll probably remember that great ad that gave you goose bumps and made you think “this is must be the coolest job in the world” If this happens, then worry not my friend.

Tomorrow morning, go to work as usual, sneak into your CDs office, and snap one of them “creative” briefs that never seem to make it to your desk. Now push all the donkeywork aside for a few hours and think. Think Hard. Come up with a few ideas that are on brief, sketch ‘em up and present them to your CD. If he welcomes your “intrusion” into the creative realms and is willing to discuss the ideas – they have to be worthwhile of course – and maybe even tells you to develop one of them, then you have no problem. All you have to do is make sure you squeeze yourself in briefing sessions and work a few extra hours every night until no one can deny your contribution to the creative output of the agency.

If, however, the CD dismisses your ideas immediately, and reminds you that you have a brochure to deliver in an hour, then go back to your desk. Put your book together, update your CV and immediately call your recruitment agent.

Advertising is the rock and roll of the business world, and I’m sure you haven’t been rocking lately. Don’t be scared. Look for a better job, maybe in a small creative hot shop somewhere, might be a rough ride, but you’ll end up getting a job as a COPYWRITER and nothing else. And you’ll do ads you’re proud of and you will rock and roll.

Many thanks Ma'n for your time!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

and this over here is our arabic copy writer...

I met up with a friend of mine yesterday…this friend of mine happens to be the rarest of gems in our industry. Truly a precious stone not to be found strolling around the putrid lakes of media city.
This friend of mine is truly one of a kind because...he reads and writes Arabic perfectly. And…..wait for it…..wait for it… comes the best part….he’s a ‘conceptualiser’ as well! Cub scouts promise, I’m not lying.

Now how many agency’s can boast one of ‘em?
Yes we all do have those Arabic translators that are occasionally honoured with an invitation to a brainstorming session because they “know the culture”…However upon the end of this field day they then resume their droning existence as the cog in the agencys arabizing machine.

So the question is why do agency management insist on hiring translators over Arabic coneptualisers?
My humble guess is the following: 1 To start with, conceptualisers are indeed a rare gem…so coming by one is almost impossible.2 Insecure Creative directors that can’t speak a fu*king word of Arabic prefer it that way. 3 Agency’s would rather spend their buck on the tangibility of hard translated brochure copy instead of the intangibility of “Arabic Ideas”.

Not sure if that made sense

Though rational from a business perspective, I wonder how effective a creative, eloquent and charismatic English salesman would be if he had a translator by his side every time he knocked on someone’s door.

If most of us can’t speak a damn word of Arabic, do we really know how effective our campaigns are before we send out for colour seps?

Cue the chair spinning t*ser that insists that all ideas are universal “whot about Cog, nowone thaid a word in dat ad and it won a lion!Whot do you thay about dat!”

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Incognit-O(Monday Resident)- Yesterday


Have you ever gotten into a cab anywhere in the Arab world? Ever asked the driver to take the next right?

Do you remember his response?


“Take the next right please.”


So, what… Does that mean we might not make it? Or we will only make it if it God wills it to be the next right?


Different scenario.

Let’s take a supplier. A printer, a production manager, a media rep. Whomever you want.

“Can we make sure the material is delivered on the 3rd?”


Time in the Middle East seems to be of no value to anyone.
Not time.
Not deadlines.
Not their word.

Not even a Monday column on a blog…

The only response you ever get when you ask for anything having to do with the concept of time is…

God willing.

Even God – the only One who doesn’t really need to - had respect for time…(creating the world in 6 days and all). There must have been a timeline in there some where.

Ahhhhh, but here is the irony for you…

When a client asks you for the world, when does he want it?


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Coffee with Saatchi & Saatchi Dubai Planner, Brenda Kassir

DC: So to help clear the air of any and all ambiguity, how would you define your role as a brand planner within Saatchi?

BK: I am an archeologist* by day and a dreamer by night. What this really means is that I patiently, scrupulously search for objects and information that will help piece together artifacts on a site, so that we can derive meaning and understand how people live their life and interact with various objects and people around them. Our intent is to uncover new insights so that we may get a clear picture of the nature of the problem at hand. Then, as a dreamer I take a creative leap and turn some ordinary facts into something that will help the magicians on the team think in new ways. The ultimate aim is to provide direction that will allow our magicians to develop communication that is original, relevant and inspiring.I've been refining my tricks for a lifetime now, that is, ever since I was born 96 years ago - and each day that goes by I learn something new from the world around me, and the civilizations that came before.

DC: How would you describe the current level of planning in the region and where is it headed? Do you feel planners are valued as much as they are in the west?

BK: I feel that communications and marketing in the region is becoming increasingly sophisticated and as such, demand for people who think the way planners think is increasingly sought after. I think the lack of an advertising body (let alone a planning one!) does not help the industrys' development within the regions' economy. I don't find it necessary to compare things with 'the west' - it doesn't do justice to this region to be compared to another. The pace of development is different, as is the culture, the people, history, political, social, economic environments etc etc etc. If we want the planning function to grow we must demonstrate its benefits to this region. Good planning will be valued by intelligent people, whether they be in the U.K or in the U.A.E, its just the U.A.E is still in its infancy compared to the U.K and therein lies the opportunity.

DC: Some people have gone so far as to say that planning is a dead end career choice in the region? You would obviously disagree. Could you tell us why?

BK: Today, the advertising industry is facing trouble on many fronts. Media houses have begun to bring 'consumer insights' experts in-house thus treading in territory previously the bastion of communication/ad agencies, consultants are being sought after for 'branding' advice, design consultants have made a niche for themselves, and clients are demanding strategic through-the-line solutions. In this new reality, if the function of planning is not supported within the ad industry it will gladly be sweeped up by these other more agile players in the communications market. Planners have nothing to fear, the advertising industry does if they don't support a planning mentality.

DC: Any words of wisdom you can offer any young aspiring planners? Favourite planning book?

BK: Hmmm, I'm still trying to find good advice myself, but here's some notes I've taken along my adventure:1. Good planners are creative thinkers without being wannabe creatives. A creative brief should be the beginning of the creative process.2. Good planners should be inquisitive, curious and instinctive.3. Good planners must have a good mix of quantitative and qualitative skills.4. Good planners must learn from the world around them and be able to look at things differently.5. Good planners must be strategic business people.6. Good planners must be people you'd want to have a chat to.
Pollitt on Planning - it's a great introduction to the basics of planning from the man who established planning at JWT more than 30 years ago.

DC: Much appreciated Brenda for being the first guest on DC!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Incognit-O(Monday Resident)- Do you have a flag?

Eddie Izzard – a great English stand-up comedian, does a skit about how empires were all built with the cunning use of ….well, flags.

Yes. Flags.

You see, you would go around and stick your flag (absolutely no pun intended here) in other people’s countries and claim them for yourself.

Quite simply, if you didn’t have a flag, you didn’t have a country. Amusing, no?


And so all the Ad agencies, PR companies, media powerhouses, online and BTL experts all have to have their very own flags – all in the form of their very own branding philosophies. They then go around and stick them in the land’s of clients, claiming territory.

It’s almost that if they don’t have their very own branding philosophy – as an agency, as a media arm, whatever they may be – they don’t really have the right to exist.

So let’s all have ‘flags’ for the sake of having them.

Don’t get me wrong, some of the branding philosophies out there are top notch.

Who can argue with Saatchi’s ‘Lovemarks’?
TBWA’s ‘Creating disruptive Ideas’?

Flags like those are timeless.

Yet the question that arises in my mind is this…what happens then to the strategic planner?

…the account planner has been around for roughly 30 years or so now, right? Yet he has never gone beyond the walls of his brand agency.

Why the hell not?

Do you ever see your planner cracking strategies with the PR team? The media people? The online architects? I certainly don’t. Is there not something wrong here…

But where on earth would he begin?

Would he Create Brand Belief with Burnett…..or ‘Fuel Brand Power’ with Starcom?
Would he Procreali-something (if BBDO is so hot on this word they invented, I challenge them to give it a verb)…or would he use OMD’s ‘Checkmate’.

Shouldn’t all brand planning come from one philosophy – at least within the same agency group?

Will we ever learn? Will we get to a stage where the brand and media planner become one?

Would love to hear all your thoughts on this one…