Ghada Chehaibar: 'There is a strange beauty to the crisis'
Posted on 2023 Mar,11

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Ghada Chehaibar, Managing and Creative Director for Purple advertising, discusses the strategies and challenges faced by ad agencies in Lebanon during the ongoing crises and how they have adapted to remain operational and motivated in a difficult environment. She also delves into the topic of acquiring new clients in today's market, the potential for Gulf companies to take advantage of low-priced creative services offered by agencies in Beirut, and the lack of creative advertising campaigns in Lebanon in recent years.

To continue functioning in a country where nothing functions is in itself a miracle. Could you share with us what are the efforts that have been deployed all through the year to keep your business alive amid the successive crises and stay inspired in an environment that doesn’t help creative inspiration to flow naturally?

We are living in a very challenging difficult times; the crisis is global. The economy has not yet recovered from the pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It's the world upside down! What would be the situation of our country where everything has been unsettled since 2019.

2022 was indeed not an easy year! We are living and witnessing in real time Charles’ Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest “ on an industry level, as we struggle with existence.

 The problem of survival was on top of our agenda. Cutting expenses, saving, working remotely and reducing working hours was very annoying but necessary, yet we managed to find more cheerful and challenging solutions that came from the new market dynamics that arrived in the form of new emerging local businesses and NGOs looking for partners. These kept the thread of hope alive and made us see that there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is a strange beauty to the crisis that is pushing us beyond our limits.


Clients have become very smart with whom they work and where they place their advertising. Where does “new business” typically come from today?

Clients has always been smart, and like us had to become frugal and savvy in investing and in selecting partners who can see things eye to eye with the objective of retaining equity, loyalists and approaching new target consumers to enlarge and grow their business.

It is those brave clients that inspired us to go beyond expectations. So we came up with campaigns for RUSSIAN VODKA, Belenkaya, Xtaz, KING RAM whiskey by Ets. Wassef Cheiban, AGREEN Organics, CLIMA-MED, Launching of Grey Robin web page, all of these were on different platforms to get an optimal return.


We miss big productions… What needs to be changed is taste and our judgment of beautiful and ugly.


Many network agencies and even smaller local ones currently service the Arab region from their Beirut offices. Do you think that companies in the Gulf are taking advantage of the low-priced local creative services? 

It’s a two way street, whilst the gulf market had higher cost and fees, the Lebanese talent had creativity and affordability. This exchange is not due to the current crisis; it goes decades back; though now we feel a tendency to force the Lebanese to go below market prices.

This will soon regulate, as situation in Lebanon are slowly but steadily going back to normal.

From another perspective, the evolution happening in the GCC is forcing them to open more towards the West with the aim of attracting investors to grow and protect their economies. The transformation they are witnessing is pushing them whether voluntarily or involuntarily to accompany the modern world and no better than the “nest” of the Middle East to lead them onto this journey.

Lebanon and its talents carry all the assets that allow to balance between culture and heritage with a twist and taste of the west.

This is serving the GCC in their evolution, allowing them to develop content for cheaper budget, which means more campaigns and execution; at the same time this is permitting the Lebanese boutique agencies to survive allowing them a breath of fresh air with USD cash payments and expanding their scope for higher and more stable business opportunities.


If like most people claim you believe that creativity isn’t linked to big budgets, then how do you explain this creative rut we have been witnessing in Lebanon for the past few years, with barely a couple of advertising campaigns that have stood apart? 

It's an endless debate, many ads of small ideas that were designed on a small budget and which had a lot of impact and others with a huge budget were unsuccessful and couldn’t convey the message and neither the product had a return on investment.

We miss the big production; it's true we are bombarded with ads reclaiming image editing, small production without concept or message. All ideas are too drawn from our daily lives but it borders on the ridiculous. What needs to be changed is taste and our judgment of beautiful and ugly.

Meanwhile priorities for the Lebanese consumers have changed. They are fighting the everyday struggles to ensure their basic needs. We see less interest in advertising and more interest in what is purposeful and pocket friendly. On the other side, most industries are facing cash flow issues today with less investments, choices are to be made. This comes mostly at the expense of big productions and media allocations. However, investments on online presence have increased (digital + eCom) and on physical presence have been somehow maintained.