Nada Abi Saleh: ‘The challenge is to continue creating in a totally collapsing environment’
Posted on 2023 Mar,07

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The past three years were greatly challenging for Lebanon’s ad business. Nada Abi Saleh, Head of Leo Burnett Beirut, explains how the agency and team managed to create, still have fun, be inspired and remain strategic amidst chaos and despair.

There has been a rumble in the market that 2022, was somewhat better than 2020 and 2021. However, the bar is exceptionally low in light of the havoc witnessed during those years, so how “good” in fact was the year and what would you consider your main achievement as an agency in 2022?

This year was good. Challenging at times, and great at times. That’s not to say that we are oblivious or immune to the economic challenges both in Lebanon and globally. On the contrary, an agency’s real achievement is the ability to successfully steer the ship across high tides and smooth waters. When it came to our clients and their natural desires to resonate with their audiences despite tough times, we have always been able to connect with them on a human level to overcome all challenges. This always was and always will be Leo Burnett’s strongest suit, along with nurturing our talents and helping them thrive and grow in a platform world. 

The latter has allowed us to shine in global awards – from the Cannes Lions to the Mena Effies to the Dubai Lynx- and keep the name of Lebanon and Leo Burnett Beirut proudly on the global creative map.


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

Communication is about people, whether they need or want products or desire to be engaged in social causes. Most clients we work with at the agency have people at the center of their concerns. And all communication campaigns developed at the agency are driven by our Human Kind philosophy. Today’s consumer is extremely smart and informed, and whether you are campaigning for a business or an NGO, you still have to convince people.

On the other hand, more than ever, clients are looking for the right partner who can help them grow in a platform world. Through the Power of One, the Groupe’s model, which consolidates all market expertise, competencies and capabilities into a single, frictionless offering, we are able to scale according to clients’ needs from data to digital business transformation, to e-Commerce to branding and everything else in between.

New business comes from the same place it always has: the belief that an agency is able to understand their needs, to guide them and help them grow their business in a constantly complex world fueled by data, technology and creativity.


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? And how do you make sure that your agency is still attracting brilliant people when obviously the salaries and conditions are not exactly very conductive to optimal working?

At Publicis Groupe, we have several hubs across the globe to cater to our organizational model.

Everything we do as a Groupe is driven by our organizational values, which are TrustTalent and Transformation. We prioritize the career growth of our employees through yearly performance appraisals as well as our diverse and extremely rich educational curriculum. The latter is our most innovative talent product, accessible via Publicis Groupe platform: MARCEL. We are constantly creating a culture of engagement and working towards being relevant to our talents, ensuring that they are performing to their fullest potentials.

At Leo Burnett Beirut, we are extremely proud of the culture we have continued to foster throughout the years. Caring and growing our community will always be an integral part of who we are and what we stand for as an Agency.


“Creativity can thrive in difficult environments. It can make a change, it can transform behavior and it can create an impact and keep the business growing against all odds.”


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? 

In order to properly flourish, a creative mind needs to be in a safe and secure environment, where a person’s most basic needs are met. In other words, one must not feel like they are in survival mode, anxiously anticipating the next explosion or afraid of running out of gasoline or medicine.

Despite it all, we have been able to keep our creative excellence alive and kicking through engaging and award-winning campaigns such as “Lollar, The Currency of Corruption” for the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA), “The Missing Peace” for UN Women and “Safety for Safekeepers”, “Priority Too” and “No Shame No Blame” for Abaad.

But let’s not fool ourselves. The challenge is to continue creating in a totally collapsing environment.

How can you create, still have fun, be inspired and remain strategic amidst chaos and despair?

Yet, we did. And we still can.

But for us, the most important measure of success is mainly internal. It is what happens backstage. It is about how we, as a team, were able throughout the process of creativity to support each other, inspire each other and challenge each other while still having fun brainstorming and ideating.

Yes, creativity can thrive in difficult environments. It can make a change, it can transform behavior and it can create an impact and keep the business growing against all odds.