Alain Khouri, Impact BBDO’s visionary founder, passes away
Posted on 2024 Jun,19  | By ArabAd's staff

It’s an incredibly sad day for the Middle East ad industry with the loss of Alain Khouri, the visionary founder of Impact BBDO.

The industry lost one of its greatest pillars who started a great network and who had a profound impact on the country's marketing and advertising landscape.

Alain Khouri was born in 1942. He travelled abroad to study, graduating with a degree in Graphic Design from ENSAAV (Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et des Arts Visuels) in Brussels in 1966.

He began his career teaching advertising at the Lebanese University of Fine Arts in Beirut, and in tandem created the agency Publi Graphics in 1968 with two partners, Razek Maamarbashi and Joe Shalha.

Shortly thereafter, Khouri parted ways with Publi Graphics and launched IMPACT Advertising in 1971 in Beirut and headed the agency for the subsequent 40 years of his successful career. Over the next four decades, his unwavering commitment to excellence established a legacy that has shaped Impact BBDO into the leading regional marketing communications group. 

In 1972, Khouri launched Impact Visuel, a cinema advertising concession whose purpose was to run commercials before the main feature screening. A year later, Impact Print was launched. This new entity was specialized in providing all printed materials needed by the regional hotel and tourism industry. That same year, also saw the birth of Impact DISPLAY: a unit specialized in retail space enhancement and creative shop window displays.

In 1975, the civil war forced everyone to seek safer havens. Khouri chose Cairo, where they had some clients, as the new base for Impact. A year later, the Cairo agency was well established, and Khouri opted to set up a hub in Cyprus to manage newly gained regional business.

Regional expansion started with the opening of an agency branch in Kuwait in 1978. And a few months later, Khouri began talks with BBDO about forming one of the first region partnerships with an international agency. Impact soon became IMPACT BBDO.

Over subsequent years, the agency’s regional expansion continued, with the 80s being the height of this acceleration with the opening of Dubai in 1982 and Jeddah in 1986, followed by the re-opening of Beirut in 1988, which also involved the purchase of a majority share in Stratégies Beirut.

In 1992, IMPACT took the decision to leave Cyprus and move the agency’s regional headquarters to Dubai. The new millennium saw the agency adding operations in Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, Algeria, and Qatar. IMPACT Porter Novelli, a public relations consultancy, and IMPACT Proximity a specialized digital and activation agency accelerated regional development and diversification, allowing the group to provide a full spectrum of marketing-communication services. OMD, PHD, and Integral were launched in partnership with OMNICOM agencies, rapidly becoming regional leaders in the media field, with operations across all major markets across the Middle East.

On the agency’s 40th anniversary, Khouri took the decision to bow out, selling the majority of his shares in the company and now remains as Chairman Emeritus.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Alain, a visionary leader who founded Impact in 1971 and formed a strong partnership with BBDO in 1979. He played a major role in shaping our industry to the world-class level it is today. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Alain's family during this difficult time," said Dani Richa, Chairman BBDO EMEA and Group CEO Impact BBDO .

Ramzi Raad wrote back in 2014 in ArabAd in an opinion piece titled “We are the Champions”, as he addressed the young and aspiring Lebanese communicators: “You are Lebanese and are lucky to have had generations of your countrymen who were the real pioneers at the dawn of consumerism in the markets of the Middle East and North Africa. These being the founders who initiated most of these markets into the direction of professional communications and who had established the base of your collective reputation as the more reliable nationality group to work in advertising.”

If you have not heard of Jean Rizk, Erwin Guerrovich, Henry Yonan, Alain Khouri, Charles Homsi, Samir Fares,  Nahy Ghorayeb, Raymond Hanna, Guy Arab, Chafic Hadaya, Philippe Hitti, Amine Kassouf, Wajih Nakhle, Jean-Claude Boulos, and their many colleagues who are still, then you need to go back to your agency bosses and ask them to tell you about the role of these “founding fathers” in opening the doors for all of you.”

[…] People doubted them because they did their work differently; others called them the Lebanese Mafia, because they all spoke the same language - a language of professionalism in the land of trial and error. They developed the advertising markets wherever they moved, and polarised skills, talent and creativity in places where creativity had never existed.

It is also important to remember that all of these pioneers came from one of the smallest markets of the region, a country, which was the cradle of creativity and professional advertising in MENA since the early sixties. They developed their own advertising market to start with, and made it the largest ad market before the rich oil markets of the GCC featured on the world’s business map. They then stepped out and helped in the establishment of other markets where conditions were much tougher than what you see around you today. […] They survived challenges from small humble offices before the current towers were built. They created and developed markets whose much brighter sides are where you operate today.”

Alain was  a mentor and an inspiration to many, not just through his remarkable contributions and achievements, but also through his unwavering dedication and passion. His kindness, wisdom and support shaped countless lives and careers and his legacy is definite to endure.

ArabAd extends its heartfelt condolences to Mylène, Karim & Nadim Khouri and to the entire Impact BBDO family.