Sunday, April 22, 2007

Coffee with JWTs creative director, Mazen Fayad

D: What’s an award and how come we have so many of them?

M: Naturally, as people, we need to be recognized and acknowledged. It's a need that motivates us and - in most of the times - massages our egos. We created awards simply because a tap on the back wasn't good enough for mass recognition. So many people in so many fields with diverse specializations who simply want to be more than wallflowers. They want to get up and celebrate with the ego parade. Very human. Some smart people, saw an opportunity there, as a new market development, a lucrative area for expansion..etc. They capitalized on these people's longings and behaviors and hence the various award ceremonies.
At the end of the day, we all seek a certain form of immortality. We want to see our names chiseled somewhere other than our tombstones since that we won't end up seeing anyway!!

D: True true, but Mazen we have more award ceremonies than heart surgeons, police institutions and non profit organizations…Why isn’t there a market there? Would you label us a supersuperficial industry?

M: Heart surgeons have their Freddie's and other guild awards, police institutions have their medals and non-pofit organizations... well this is interesting, they have a CAUSE and it's selfless, hence their prefix: non-profit. But never underestimate their bloating (after achieving a certain environmental, humane,...objective) in the form of press releases to achieve their award, more funding!

Idealistically, awarding oustanding achievement in relation to the respected field is hardly an act of superficiality. However, winning in a class C award ceremony just because the great ones weren't there, and then shouting it from roof tops is non-debatable hypocrisy (prefix needed)... again whatever it takes to satisfy the need for recognition...we all know what we're worth and we all have a tendency to multiply its projection. Then again, you can debate superficiality becoming the norm if we take things at face value.

D: What in your opinion is the most interesting piece of content occupying any medium right now?

M: By far, it's the Mcdonald's Sundial Outdoor!
Enough said.

D: In their essay on The Media Society Fred & Farid of ex Marcel, stated quite adamantly that we, as advertisers, are by far the worst storytellers out there and clients could get more for less by simply throwing their money in Hollywood’s direction… Your thoughts?

M: Interesting article and quite amusing... funny enough it was written at a time when I had had enough of advertising and had started film directing.
Look at me now, answering your question after having sold my soul back to the devil, but for a better bargain :)

I agree that generally we are not as good story tellers as Hollywood is or the likes of it. It's simple, films are in the business of entertainment. We are in the business of business - less contraints. Now how boring is it that I couldn't find a better synonym for what we do for a living. Moreover, how pathetic is it that our story is assessed on the basis of making business sense rather than building a certain affinity with people. I also agree that people love a good story and need to be moved. They are ready to pay handsomely for the prospect of excitement even if it's at the expense of truth. Give me something interesting to rattle about irrespective if it's real, fabricated or tweaked and I'll ensure you a quick word of mouth. Have you ever wondered why 5 tabloids in the UK rank before The Times and the other newspaper spreadsheets in daily circulation? It's one of the best examples where content prompts circulation rather than frequency force feeding the content.

Now having said that, there are two very important points I'd like to tap on regarding getting more for less from Hollywood.

1-Statistically speaking what makes a blockbuster movie is a viewership rate of only 5-7% of the nation's population. Now at best, and it's hard to assess because its stratified segmentation, how much of that population is your brand's target? How about the non- blockbuster movies? The rate definitely drops. It's risky but good for general by the way branding or new product introduction that caters for the masses. But I see it more of a supplement, a complimentary medium.

2- What happens to the brand image, identity, character? Will it change and metamorph with every Hollywood story?

D: but couldn’t you make the same claim for the over stratification of the television audience?

M: That's one of the vices of mass communication. You can't avoid the spill-over factor but you can try to control it. With TV it's easier since you can pick both the programs that appeal to your desired target and the time of day to catch them. However, television proved to be a better medium not only for nailing a specific target group but also in the integration of engaging brand stories. Sunsilk has done it twice so far. Once with "Hairapy" and another with "Love Bites".

The resulting "Hairapy" program centered on a Sex and the City-inspired promotion with gay male characters showing up in ads and on the streets to help women get through their various hair traumas. The Hairapy guys offered their version of tough love to women in need of honest feedback about their problem hair, creating a snarky tone that jibed nicely with the personality of the brand.
Where as the mega succes came afterwards with "Lovebites", a 2 minutes episode mini series produced to promote Sunsilk's haircare products. They ran on HBO right after "Sex and the City" reruns. The New York Post wrote the following about it:

"Lovebites" represents a striking change in television advertising and the latest thinking on Madison Avenue: An ad should not only be as entertaining as the show, it should be the show.The series, consisting of 65 episodes, has averaged a 0.5 rating - equal to or better than the numbers cable channels such as VH1, BET and Bravo put up in prime time."

D: So from an adman to a director back to an adman, you think you’ve found your calling? What is Mazen Fayad goanna be doing this very second when he’s 60?

M: As usual, rebounding ;)


Anonymous she said...

I think it is pretty clumsy of anyone to say we are anything but an industry up our own arses...

Whats worse is that we are actually trying to make a case to the health industry and civil defense industries claim as many award ceremonies as our industry...

I think few heart surgeons see award ceremonies as the ultimate accolade...come on, lets no kid outselves...We are as superfical as it gets at least lets not be even more by admitting so.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous spoon said...

here here.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Didn't you join advertising for the sole purpose of awards didn't?..pffft, tell JWT that, I dare you.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The McDonald's sundial is probably the most uninspiring example of ambient. Very disapointed Mazen.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous ish said...

Anonymous would you care to elaborate on what it is exactly you would label as an inspiring piece of ambient then?

1:11 PM  
Anonymous GB said...

Mate a 'Freddie' is a Media award for healthcare...not an award given to health practitioners...

1:27 PM  
Anonymous farrukh: copywriter & journalist said...

Good interview - coming right after the awards season, Nic.

Would have also liked to read answers to questions about effectiveness, demonstrated. And not just because the product was so good but because the ads brought in the traffic.


11:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's just dull. A big sundial, oh look, pointing at a cup of coffee, now a sandwich. Please. Here, get this book and you'll read up on far more interesting ambient executions:

7:49 PM  

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