Digital Agencies in Lebanon: ORIGIN on Navigating Turbulent Waters to Foster an Endless Stream of Creativity
Posted on 2023 Sep,13  | By Christina Fakhry

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It is no secret that Lebanese-born digital agencies have been subjected to enormous, albeit existential, challenges for the past few years amid the country’s ranging crisis climate and full-blown economic collapse. And while many grappled with changing times strictly in survival mode, others were able to turn the odds in their favor by making bold moves that helped them not only stay in the game but also solidify their market share. From expanding the scope of their digital services to occasionally venturing into new markets, both new and existing agencies fought the current to maintain a healthy flow of creativity and adaptability. As the local market continues to bounce back, we reached out to the founders of some of the country’s prominent digital agencies for key insights and impressions, all while discussing the future of creativity. In the following interview, Marwan Arban, CEO & Joy El Hajj, COO of Origin share their take.

Based on your extensive experience, what is the key to success in today's digital landscape and how can you stand out from the pack in a cluttered digital market like Lebanon?

In recent years, Lebanon has traversed a challenging path and the agencies that have persevered owe their survival primarily to their flexibility, adaptability and unwavering resolve. However, in order for these agencies not only to survive but also to thrive, we believe that four fundamental factors come into play:

  • Innovation: It is imperative for agencies to foster innovation and establish a strong presence. The shift from global agencies to medium-sized ones by both brands and clients is driven by their capacity to innovate swiftly and keep up with a dynamic pace.
  • Business Development: Centralizing business development is paramount for any agency. While many agencies focus on perfecting the technical aspects and refining their products, they often neglect the cultivation of a proactive business development team. This oversight inevitably leads to a depletion of clients, as the agency remains obscured in a saturated market.
  • Reputation: The significance of reputation cannot be overstated. Meeting commitments and deadlines holds immense importance. In the present landscape, the fusion of speed and quality is indispensable; agencies must operate nimbly, perform well under pressure and consistently deliver results.
  • Strategic Breakthrough: Concentrating efforts on a major breakthrough can trigger exponential growth, propelling the agency into the limelight for all to behold. This strategic approach establishes the agency's presence on the industry map, capturing widespread attention


What digital services are brands seeking the most lately according to your agency data? In what direction do you see the local/regional market going?

The landscape of digital services is witnessing a revolution in the way we engage with content. In today's scenario, a 10-year-old consumes more content in merely five minutes than an individual born in 1920 did throughout their entire lifetime. The prevailing trajectory unmistakably favors the digital realm, not only fostering continuity but also deepening immersion. With the advent of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and AR/VR (Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality) technologies, the global trajectory is firmly headed towards ‘phygital’, whereby the demarcation between the physical and the digital is dissolved, resulting in a seamless fusion. Another noteworthy digital inclination, albeit not garnering as much buzz, has to do with cybersecurity. Although the discourse surrounding this theme might not be as extensive as warranted, it is worth underscoring that an increasing number of brands are becoming more aware of the imperative need of establishing a robust cybersecurity framework.


"The crisis yielded a silver lining for ORIGIN, catalyzing a surge of innovation and rapid expansion. It served as a litmus test, challenging us to not only push our boundaries but also to recalibrate our internal dynamics and reaffirm our vision." 


How can you keep up with the latest digital and social media trends in an ever-evolving digital landscape that is moving faster than ever before?

Social media trends have been predominantly centered around content, and by delving into the intricacies of human behavior, we gain insights into forthcoming trends on the horizon. Reflecting on the inception of social media, content was heavily geared toward advertisements. However, in today's landscape, authenticity reigns supreme. Audiences no longer seek mere advertisements. Instead, they crave a glimpse into influencers' lives captured through unfiltered moments on their phones. Looking ahead, the trajectory points toward a digital encounter that engages all five senses, ushering humans into a multisensory digital experience. At ORIGIN, we've pioneered the inaugural Neurocommunication Lab or NeuroCom Lab, dubbed Brand Lab, where our endeavors encompass extensive studies and research conducted at the neuroscientific level to unravel the complexities of the human mind. As we peer into the future, the forthcoming social media trend takes the shape of immersion.


In what way(s) did Lebanon's crisis climate in the past few years affect your agency business and how do you optimize your internal process to maintain a smooth workflow?

The crisis yielded a silver lining for ORIGIN, catalyzing a surge of innovation and rapid expansion. It served as a litmus test, challenging us to not only push our boundaries but also to recalibrate our internal dynamics and reaffirm our vision. The robustness of our internal structure played a pivotal role in navigating this adversity, ultimately allowing us to weather the storm successfully. Unfortunately, the same narrative does not extend to other agencies and their proprietors. Regrettably, some were compelled to shutter their operations due to the crisis. What’s particularly disheartening is witnessing the exodus of talent from our country in search of stability. Lebanon is witnessing a distressing brain drain, with talent departing at an alarming rate. It is a poignant reminder of how other nations are adeptly fostering well-established ecosystems to attract Lebanese talent in a stark contrast to the time when Lebanon stood as a beacon of digital and creative innovation a mere decade ago.


How would you define creativity in today's digital landscape? And what are the biggest challenges agencies would have to cater to in order to secure a better future?

Creativity equals imagination and technology. To secure a brighter future, agencies should foster cross-disciplinary collaboration, bringing together tech virtuosos, storytellers and strategists to give rise to innovative ideas. Guided by the North Stars of human-centric design, unwavering commitment to authentic interactions and the ability to embrace the uncharted, agencies can chart a course toward an improved tomorrow.

This article is part of an interview series conducted with six Beirut-based Lebanese digital agencies.