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Communicate Levant | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Communicate Levant | Advertising, marketing, public relations and media in the Arab world and beyond

Advertising communication: the bigger picture


Advertising communication: the bigger picture

Communication can still change the world if you keep the faith, says Christopher Nehme, communication manager at Leo Burnett Lebanon

By Christopher Nehme

Advertising /ˈadvətʌɪzɪŋ/ noun: The activity of producing advertisements for commercial products or services.

This is how people used to define advertising. Then, advertising was seen as a form of entertainment and a trustworthy source of information, due to the public’s lack of knowledge around the ad’s tackled subject.

So much has changed since

Today, with the rise of the digital age, people are questioning all forms of communication, mainly because the Internet has given them unprecedented access to information and knowledge. Brands are no longer able to get away with things the way they did before. The advertising world is perceived as deceitful, an industry that manipulates people into buying things they may not need. This new understanding of advertising is further corroborated daily, due to a countless number of ads still based on commercialism, sentimentalism or attention seeking.

Being at the very heart of this industry, I would like to share my views on how 2019 is classifying advertising (if that is still the term to even use) as well as on the bigger picture beyond each and every campaign.

My experiences in advertising have taught me a philosophy that goes a little something like this: “Everything that matters in our industry should begin and end with two things: people and their behaviors.”

Now, more than ever, we must restore people’s faith in this industry. There is a pressing need to combine creativity and an identified behavior in hopes to transform and positively impact human behavior in all communication. Any campaign goal should be to move a brand to a place where ideas make a qualitative difference in people’s lives – ideas that are uniquely human and fiercely original.

I can go on and on in theory, but I guess that would basically get you to flip the page. So, I’ll just dive into what I mean by “Let’s do more acts and not ads”.

One of my very first campaigns was called “True Love Never Goes Blind” for Alfa Telecommunications (Telecom). It involved restoring a woman’s vision, thus reconnecting her with her husband and enabling her to see her kids for the first time. While this might seem too do-gooder at first glance, this campaign was fueled by a truly creative idea that ended up changing the lives of many people.

When we were discussing the whole thing for the first time, I wondered why we were doing this? How does giving a woman her vision back impact people’s perception of the brand? Why don’t we just create a product that people would appreciate on Valentine’s Day? Well, all my concerns were laid to rest the minute I heard the word “Action” on set. Throughout seven hours of tearing up behind the monitor, I watched two people who genuinely love each other explain the impact of glaucoma on their relationship. Then it dawned on me that a telecom company has the power to change and improve someone’s life by placing technology in their hands. With one act, we changed one life, spilling over to more than 200 others. Moreover, the brand attained positive sentiment and was positioned as a leader in technology, particularly the kind that is in the service of human needs.

More recently, I was working on a campaign for the Lebanese NGO Abaad titled: “Min El Filten?” ( or Shame On Who?), which addressed anti-rape laws. The campaign included a social experiment in which we placed an actress playing the role of a rape victim on the streets while documenting people’s reactions either shaming or helping her. It also included marathon stunts, graffiti on the streets of Beirut and an interactive play. The campaign went viral on a regional scale and even stretched globally. One day, as I was watching news covering the campaign, my father asked me: “Okay, so you conducted a social experiment, posted it and it went viral… How does that change anything?”. I realized that some people, like my father, might have missed the point of this act: an opportunity designed to expose Lebanese society’s real thoughts on this taboo subject, and inspire victims to come forward and join the fight for a better tomorrow.

You see, if you scratch the surface, you’ll learn that advertising is a world of endless possibilities to engage people with brands intelligently, all the while inspiring and enriching their lives. Ultimately, we always hope to better the way they think, feel and live.

No matter how cheesy and far-fetched it sounds, I remain a strong believer that communication, when done right, has the potential to change the world.

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