Ghada Chehaibar: ‘The Lebanese market is calibrating’
Posted on 2024 Mar,25

For Ghada Chehaibar, CEO of Purple advertising agency, in Lebanon, “there are moments of optimism that surface only to be swiftly replaced by a strong sense of uncertainty that unfortunately throws us back into a recession mode.” Chehaibar shares her definition of “business as usual” in the ad sector, as she elaborates on what has become the new normal for her and her team.


The new normal 

Looking over the past year, one can’t help but smile at the irony of how everything is so different; yet on a day to day, the changes are not sensed. 

I reflect on the last ArabAd edition we had last year together, I can’t but notice what a peculiar year 2023 has been; while abundance and influx were expected, they remained the hope we hung on to. 

Lebanon is no stranger to trials; we continue to wake up to international and regional challenges. There are moments of optimism that surface only to be swiftly replaced by a strong sense of uncertainty that unfortunately throws us back into a recession mode. It’s like a superball – hitting the ground, only to bounce back – higher! That is the norm for us. 

The market is calibrating; people are back to spending; brands are still emerging and proliferating. Yet investments remain shy and restrained. The good days of big briefs and production haven’t fully surfaced yet; digital rules and overrules with one mindset: More for Less. This is pushing us to enhance our expertise and potential.

Here comes the chase of multi skilled talents able to cater to those dynamics, which are the pillar of agencies today. I must say they have become rare to find nowadays!


Business as usual redefined

“El Balad Raglaj” - a very prominent term making headlines and being the most common word of mouth, projecting that the country's situation is “supposedly resolved”!

To put it differently, “business as usual” gained a new definition: a new state of business in which the country is slowly settling into. 

In my opinion, it remains merely a form of denial or consolation. In fact, with the constant geopolitical issues hitting the country, can we even identify what is/was “business as usual”? Each era comes with its set of averages that ultimately settle as the new “business as usual” as we get accustomed to the context.

We have moved from simply trying to “keep our heads above water” to trying to take a few strokes and swim forward! 

The economy is still impaired and keeps getting pulled back into recession. The spillover effect from the ongoing conflicts pose yet another shock to Lebanon’s growth model. Relying on tourism and on expats transferring money to their families is not the winning proposition that will put the country back on its feet, and it surely is not the indicator of “back to normal”. 

All is about reforms, then reforms and more. Radical change is the only way to push us forward. It is fundamental to clarify the future backup strategy to people. What are the new economic strategies of Lebanese banks, and what lies ahead for the central bank? Will there be a president, or will the country continue drowning in the unknown? 

Any tangible reform, however small, is vital to regain the trust of major investors and advertisers, inviting them to return to the land of creativity.


“It’s like a superball – hitting the ground, only to bounce back – higher! That is the norm for us.”


Key trend set to disrupt global marketing practices in 2024

The evolution of this industry is moving at a rapid pace. The key is to be able to catch the train early on and surf the wave of change. We are witnessing exciting development: more innovation, more creativity!

AI has disrupted the industry, it is driving the transformation of “conventional” advertising and marketing; digital is becoming more personalized. As such, marketers anticipate that by 2025, customer lifetime value will be the most important factor and driver of the industry. 

While this evolution is beneficial, it still poses two threats for us: disappearing jobs on one hand and the capacity / capability to keep up with AI on the other.  

According to an analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), “nearly 40% of jobs worldwide will be affected by artificial intelligence (AI).

Reiterating on the point mentioned earlier on shy investments, the quality and taste of advertising has plunged and faltered. We are witnessing the trend of “quick and dirty” consumable content; a trend that is hasty and lacks any sense of excellence and value. This is temporarily adequate and expedient, but not reliable for the long term. Which raises the concern on the “new bars” we are setting for the quality of the industry in Lebanon and its reliability, especially to the external world! 

Nowadays, international agencies are not relying on local source of business; they are aiming for regional pitches, and are withdrawing from small ad hoc projects. This allows them to secure external funding and stability, a vital lifeline for their survival. This makes life rather complicated for local boutiques that believe in local clients for the majority of their business. Trying to compete without external funding, it gets hard really quick.

Last, a threat much more common across the industry is "audience behavior". The audience's span of interest is shrinking at an alarming rate, People today get easily bored, jumping on a trend that comes blasting like a tidal wave only to jump on the next one and move on the day after. You can go from viral to outdated in the blink of an eye! That's why we must always be on our toes, in order to keep catching those early trains.


Top priorities as an agency for 2024 in terms of business objectives

As the author and business consultant Jim Collins famously said, 'If you have more than three priorities, you don't have any.'  For us, it is going to be about:

- Spending each dollar wisely; 

- Being agile and responsive;

- Setting intelligent objectives that should allow us to disconnect from everything happening in the region.

“wa lana fi el khayal 7ayat” … Let’s continue dreaming and hoping for a regional change that will allow us to overcome this impasse and return to normal life…