Thursday, July 27, 2006

Truth, Brands and War...

Not by any means do I want to compare the magnitude of war to the trivialities of the world we work in by posting it on an advertising blog. Neither do I want to contribute to the never ending political debate over middle east and foreign policy. But I would like to offer an opinion on the repercussions of the ongoing events in Lebanon. Particularly, the repercussions on Israel for a change.

It will be a day when agency's rule clients before Israel suffer a heavy military defeat. Their grip on the media provokes a George Orwell sequel. They are arguably the smallest yet most powerful nation on the globe.

Yet despite all this power, all this control and all this muscle, what have all of their actions done to brand Israel? Their tourism is in the bin. Israelis pop across the dead sea to Jordan, rarely vise versa. They have yet to host any large scale tourist boosting events like F1 Grad Prix, Asian games and shopping festivals to name a few. They are unable to compete in any sport on a regional level thus their appeal to be classified in European competition. They are far from any type of a regional business hub considering their geographical surroundings restriction. They are being flattened by the likes of where I write this blog from and other neighboring states and countries. Their market is too small to divert any serious localized attention from any global conglomerates.

As a testament of this, simply go to yahoo, click on images, type in 'Israel' and have a look at the images that pop out, then do the same for 'Lebanon'. The results are pretty interesting.

Yup…Even with all the power, all the super-power backing and media control...brand Israel is in the toilet...

Sunday, July 23, 2006


"Are you curious, energetic, creative, an independant thinker?
We are looking for somebody with these characteristics who would like to be part of Account Planning at Saatchi & Saatchi.
You might have a psychology, research, anthropolgy, economics, sociology or art background - you might even be a clown! What is important is that you are interested in finding out about people and that you are prepared to do the hard work to understand them. You must be motivated by big ideas in any medium and you must be passionate about communicating and communication.
This entry level position is a unique opportunity to be part of a reputable and ideas driven team.

If you think you are up to the challenge send an email to"

Coffee with Ziad Jureidini, the jump to client

DC: So Ziad, once an agency member (Leo Burnett) now a client. What would you go back and do differently at Leo?

Z: Overall I wouldn’t do things very differently though I would insist on sharing the client brief with the other disciplines before I share it with the creative team. It is crucial to involve the PR, the digital, and the media colleagues from the very beginning. We keep talking and are constantly pushed to deliver integrated communication, however in reality given the work load and the tight timelines we used to automatically jump on delivering the creative part. Resist the tight timelines and ask for a longer preparation period but make sure you deliver a fully integrated communication campaign. Ideally speaking, all disciplines should be presented together.

DC: So what's it like throwing in the t shirt and sneaks for the shirt, leather shoes and tie? And what do you miss the most and the least?

Z: Spot on! I guess this is a personality trait: Some prefer to look like they’re posing for a “Boss” ad; they just enjoy it and I still have a hard time figuring out how. Could it be because it makes them look like a boss with an “obey the suit” attitude? Maybe. In essence it creates distances and a serious ambiance. The tie is a drama on its own: it is there to remind you every morning that you are dog-tied to the corporate world. You can’t wait to break free from it! And thinking that Steve Jobs didn’t need a tie to build an empire out of Apple…
One misses the agency environment, the harmony, the adrenaline rushes, the passionate friends… but the stress, the overworked/underpaid life is not something that you miss at all! Very important to have a “me” time, daily, which is something you can hardly have with an agency life.

DC: So post 3 years agency experience, how does that affect your current interaction with you respective agency? Do you empathize when putting a bullet in a layout? Or tolerate less crap?

Z: Absolutely empathic and patient, but less tolerant to mediocrity.

DC: So here is the million dollar ever coming back?

Z: Sure anything could happen but it’s not something that I’m planning for currently

DC: Many thanks Ziad for your time and good luck on the other side.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Snickers...Weki Weki!!

First of all despite the fact that our previous guest Dimitri Metaxas mentioned it before, today I rolled through this site again and just chilled for a good 20 minutes.

The urban artistry inspired by the likes of Justin Bua, the selection of undergound hip hop blasting from the little boom box on the right and the old school sneek you roll around the site with (i think they are adidas, if not they should be) all really do conjure up an authentic urban feel to this site.

Hats off to Impact Proximity.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Coffee with JWT strategist Hadi Zabad

DC: Is planning undervalued in the region or does the region lack value in

H: Before we even discuss what sort of value planning has in the region, I’d ask that we agree on what sort of planning we’re actually talking about to begin with. ‘Planning’ itself is by definition quite a loose and fuzzy function. To complicate matters even further, we’re hampered by how different agencies in this region colour the role themselves. To one agency planners are glorified brand managers, in another they’re new business runners, and in a third they’re creative partners. So, is planning undervalued? Depends on your definition. Does the region lack value in planning? Depends on the planner.

DC: From Leo Burnett you moved to what many dub the founding agency of the
'Brand Planning' discipline, JWT. Could you compare and contrast the
differences between an agency where planning is tied into the account
management role(LB) and an agency where planning is a fully integrated yet
separate discipline in the communication process (JWT)?

H: I consider the time I spent at Leo as preparation for my eventual leap into planning at JWT. I believe the difference is mainly one of dedication and time – and therefore quality of actual ‘planning’. My personal opinion is that if an agency ties planning into another role, planning becomes tied down. After all, planning is a full time job with a whole list of responsibilities – and getting into the heads of consumers represents a big chunk of those responsibilities. Expecting account management, who are already tasked with making so much happen on a day-to-day basis, to bear the responsibilities of a planner sounds to me a bit stretched.

Let’s not kid ourselves though; you’d be hard pressed to distinguish between agencies that employ planners and those that do not by merely looking at the quality of their creative output. But what I strongly believe is that we can and actually do help communications become more effective, which is more likely to happen in agencies that regard planning as a separate discipline.

DC: If you had to hire an ambitious young planner 2 candidates stood before
you, an ex suit and an ex creative (copy writer), this being the decisive
factor who would you hire and why?

I really wish it were as simple as all that but a job title alone just won’t help me in deciding who to hire. I’d have to look beyond that. But between the suit and the creative I would most probably end up hiring the one who is:
1. less full of him/herself, because ones self-image and perceptions get in the way of seeing things with a fresh perspective.
2. more able to make creative connections between things that other people ignore – to think laterally and voice non-cliché points of view.
3. the better listener. This industry is saturated with big talkers, most of whom haven’t taken the time to listen for, and absorb the problem before coming up with solutions. And whether in a suit or torn jeans, I’d rather not work with a know-it-all.

DC: All planners we have had coffee with so far have had their own personal idiosyncrasies on what a planner is and does.
Saatchi Dubai's strategist Brenda saw herself as an
archeologist, Burnett Chicago's Tamer Kattan, a Philosopher. What's in
JWT's Hadi then?

H: I’m going to steer away from prescribed professional roles and say Aspirin.

The Head of Cardiology at the National Institute of Health puts it best I think (except for the cheap and relatively safe part): "Aspirin is a great drug: effective, cheap, and relatively safe. The drug has been used by just about everybody, so it may not have the sex appeal of newer drugs, but it can have a huge beneficial impact if used properly. Looking at aspirin's impact, on heart attacks for example, it may be equal to or better than some drug therapies that cost thousands of dollars." So in short, we’re versatile problem solvers. It’s never one job, but in the end the objective is the same: more effective communication with our target audience.

DC: Name me 2 of your favorite regional campaigns that have 'planner' written
all over 'em.

H: I have to marry two distinct parts of myself to answer this question – the cynic in me who declares “I don’t have any favorite regional campaigns” and the optimist (blasted fellow!) who says “we’ve made strides” and points to some above ‘ok’ campaigns. On second thoughts I object to this marriage taking place. I’m going to cop out and name 2 campaigns that have nothing to do with this region:

VW GTI’s “Unpimp your auto!”
Honda’s “Hate is Good” campaign

Why those two? Exactly because you don’t see the insights (planner) screaming back at you. Even as an advertising exec you can’t help but react to these campaigns as a human first, adman second. The trouble with ‘planning’ and ‘insights’ in this region is they’ve become catchphrases – let’s seek out our target, find out what they’re like (who are they, what do they do?) and then mirror them back in our advertising. Makes sense doesn’t it? To make use of a Jeremy Bullmore analogy - we’re comedians coming on stage saying ‘I’m funny, no really’ when what we really should be doing is telling a joke and letting the audience decide for themselves.

DC: Many thanks Hadi for your time and good luck with JWT.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Coffee with Ramzi Haddad, Group Account Director, BBDO

DC: Ramzi you've worked on what most would most suits would call 'dream accounts' P&G and Master foods. How much leverage do these names currently hold in the market on CV in comparison to local names?

R: Well, I believe working on a multinational account for a consistent period of time implants the account handler with what I dub as a ‘strategic thinking backbone’ and this quality is what gives the account handler an ‘edge’ and turns him/her into an asset other companies want to add on to their ranks. It’s a quality that simply changes the way you view brand building. It turns it into a discipline that always requires 1) a deep understanding of your target consumers 2) knowledge of how to bring the brand’s equity to life and 3) A long term vision of what territory you want the brand to occupy in the minds and hearts of consumers.
As for leverage, I think several big, local and regional companies are now beginning to understand the power that proper strategic thinking brings towards building mega brands. They just need to make strategic thinking a daily routine within their marketing teams. That is, if they want their brand to inspire loyalty beyond reason with their consumers.

DC: What would you site as a disadvantage of working on these big names or schools from an account handling perspective?

R: The only disadvantage is basically these big brands’ primary advantage; their global advertising scope. In many cases, big brands that are advertised globally will rely on a methodology that is coined as ‘search and re-apply’. Basically, instead of tapping into local market intrinsics and creating the advertising to meet them, they might just ask the agency to search around the globe for suitable pieces of advertising to run or possibly reshoot. When this turns into a recurrent practice, it can de-motivate creative teams, and possibly alienate the brand from its local target simply because the advertising no longer relates to them.

DC: In most cases multinationals are global alignments, what others may dub'loyal clients'. Local business on the other hand is of a more precarious nature.
The stereotype in the middle east market is talent is on multinational and the lesser on local, however on the flip side of this wouldn't it make more sense to keep talent on local clients, the less loyal? Your thoughts?

R: This all goes back to what the agency perceives its role as. We are brand guardians. This is our job. We’re here to transform our clients’ businesses and grow their brands. Agencies should guide their clients to think strategically. If a client hasn’t nailed down the equity of the brand, we do it. If they haven’t mapped out their brand course for the future, we plot it. To do that, you need a team of talented people, no matter if your brand was local or multinational.

DC: You are interviewing 2 candidates for an account executive position. You ask them the same question 'What's the first thing you do when you get to work'.
Candidate 1: "I like to come in pretty early about 8;30, I feel more productive at that time. Check the to do list I wrote yesterday for today, check all emails from my clients and reply".
Candidate 2: "Have a cup of coffee with someone new from the office, In most cases my computer won't start up before 9;30.

All thing being equal, who would you hire?

R: I’m not a guy who judges people based on how early they come in every morning, but on how ‘responsible’ they feel towards their business. I’ve worked with account executives that put in the extra hours to make sure the job at hand is done. Anyhow, these two questions aren’t enough to let me make up my mind on which I’m going to hire. There’s a lot more to be asked before that account executive makes it on my team ;)

DC: Many thanks Ramzi, good luck at BBDO.