Friday, July 13, 2007

The art of advertising in Lebanon

Most tourists come to Lebanon for the excellent food, the lovely climate and the ever astonishing combination of beaches and mountains. Yet, although they’re impossible to miss, there’s an often overlooked Unique Selling Point to add to Lebanon’s treasures: commercial billboards!

Anywhere you go, you can see the huge billboards advertising all sorts of things. Most of them are just plain annoying eyesores, but some of them have this inimitable quality of sucking so much they become cool again. Below is a small collection of such billboards that you can find along the roads in Lebanon these days.

The first one is to sell white horses: simply slap a half naked model on top of it and off you go…oh wait, that’s how you promote Ferraris. So what to make of the below picture? I reckon some clever Lebanese marketing bureau thought it could also work with horses:

Photo 1: White horse for sale

In order to appreciate the next billboards, you have to know that a few months ago, a huge discussion broke out in Holland over a billboard that was deemed too sexy and degrading of women, see below:

Photo 2: This picture caused public outcry in The Netherlands

*shrug*, what’s the big deal here, most Lebanese would say since they see worse every day. Holland, the only country that has a union for prostitutes, is apparently more conservative than the Arab country Lebanon. Heh, how’s that for public perception?

Photo 3,4,5: The smaller the lingerie, the bigger the picture

While the above billboards are still somewhat tasty, things can always get worse…much worse. Just take a look at the below billboards. No clue what the intended message is, but all you see is how good you can spread your legs in Exo or Oxygene jeans. Makes you wonder which decent woman ever wants to buy them.

Photo 6,7: A new low: "Spread them, while keeping your pants on"

A really good commercial takes a cliché and turns it upside down to give you something to laugh about. A really bad commercial takes a cliché and leaves it untouched. Like, vegetarians are some kind of hippy-ish folks who are stuck in the 60s. Nah, no way a company would make a commercial based on this cliché, that’d be too stupid, right?!

Photo 8: But of course: only hippies are vegetarians

As a final note, here is a billboard that is actually quite funny and has all the characteristics to make it one of the best advertisements at the moment. It’s from Almaza and addresses the actual political situation. The word ‘chair’ in Arabic can be an actual chair but is also used for the presidential chair and is thus referring to the upcoming presidential elections in Lebanon.

Photo 9: "All eyes are on the chair this summer"


Gerard said...

During my first visit to Lebanon when I was still young, billboards of this content were still absent. There were many billboards though: the one for the Pope who just visited Lebanon and the other for Dutch Boy (a brand of paint). As I was young and Dutch, I made myself believe the billboards of the boy were put there to welcome me.

Anonymous said...

The process of getting modern:
1. women completely covered up for their man's dignity to remain intact, their sexuality is only to be enjoyed by one man
2. women get fed up, start taking a few layers off
3. layers get shorter and shorter, women claim control of their sexuality, men really enjoying themselves at the "control"
4. women near naked on billboards having their bodies used to make money for somebody else (prostitution?)
5. women realise that infact instead of gaining control over their sexuality, they've lost all control of it and are now back in the middle ages with their bodies being used for money/sexual gratification of all men
6. women complain about the ads using women's bodies, perhaps the first real step in true freedom and modernity.

Harald Doornbos said...

Hey Riemer, leuk stukje. mag ik eht onderwerp van je jatten voor een verhaal in mijn krant? Vanzelfprekend doe ik andere interviews, foto's etc. Maar het onderwerp leent zich uitstekend voor de zomer. Laat het me even witen. Dank je.

Riemer Brouwer said...

Sure, no problem

Riemer Brouwer said...


Vreemd, ik kan je e-mail niet vinden, dus maar even zo:

Nog even een aanvulling op mijn stukje dat ik van plan ben morgen ofzo te plaatsen, maar gebruik het gerust: op de snelweg naar het noorden toe zie je bij de tunnel van Jounieh een aantal billboards van sex-symbol Haifa, met haar foto volledig vernield. Wellicht gedaan door een paar "bezorgde burgers" die al deze vunzigheid veel te ver vinden gaan? Opvallend in ieder geval dat dit is gebeurd in het hartje van christelijk Libanon. En dat terwijl de christenen worden gezien (en vooral zichzelf erg zien) als open-minded, zeker in tegenstelling tot de conservatieve moslims. Het lijkt vaak wel of de christenen trots zijn op hun halfnaakte reclames: zie ons eens modern zijn!

Toch is de conversatieve vernielpartij niet zo merkwaardig. Immers, drie jaar geleden liepen de billboards ook erg uit de hand en toen volgde er een gezamenlijke oproep van christelijke en moslimleiders dat deze openbare pornografie onmiddelijk een halt moest worden toegeroepen. Goed om te weten dat er nog steeds zaken zijn die de Libanezen verbind:-)

Hans A.H.C. de Wit said...

Dag Riemer,
Heb enkele foto's van je gejat en op mijn blog geplaatst, sorry, hoop dat er geen copy right op is.
We hadden in Istanbul een probleem met soortgelijk billboards...maar hier zijn ze more sexy than over there..))
Kindest from a Dutch in Istanbul

V said...

The 1st one is not for horses it is actually a clothing brand

youmny said...

Great post! I get we've become so used to these images that they don't strike us as odd anymore!

Ammoniav said...

Guys! you missed the best billboarde in the "viva la prostitution" category. Keep your eyes on the road. Sound a bell?

Marketing in Lebanon said...

It's the second time I end up on your page, this post really ranks high on "advertising Lebanon" keywords :) #justSaying