Ibrahim Lahoud on the Political Advertising Created for Lebanon's Parliamentary Election: 'Too Much Money Spent on Cheap Approaches'
Posted on 2018 Apr,21

In a talk with ArabAd, Ibrahim Lahoud, Managing Partner of Beirut-based brand consultancy and strategic design firm Brand Tribe, shares his branding and advertising communications' expertise in light of the political advertising, which have flooded the country on the brink of the Parliamentary elections scheduled for May 6.


Most of the campaigns this year are very straightforward, with easy memorable punchlines... Do you think this is an effective strategy that can have an impact on how voters vote?

First of all, there’s a difference between “memorable punchlines” where the candidates target each other, and “untold truth” that voters are genuinely after.

I do not think that any of the campaigns will have a substantial impact on swaying votes. The nature of our socio-political fabric entails a pre-binded voter to a pre-chosen leader. That’s why the “sheeple” term is widely circulated on social media. 


How do you evaluate a good political campaign? 

A good political campaign is assessed through the impact of the change it induces. In Lebanon, political/campaigning communication has seldom achieved a target. This is because most - if not all - campaigns use deception, lies, or simply never bring to fruition the outlined promises. Nowadays, we rely on good design, beautiful typography, and modern delivery mediums to “dress” the campaigns, more like a wolf in disguise.


Among all the political campaigns launched so far, is there any strong concept that caught your attention? 

No. None. All are either about self-flattery (Future), arrogance (Tayyar), or complaining (Lebanese Forces). All are about the advantages they possess. None is about the benefits “we the people” get.

Which is the most persuasive political campaign or/and slogan you've seen so far? 

In Lebanon? None. But when Margret Thatcher won the elections, it certainly was because of the famous “Labor is not working” campaign.

Similarly, the “Force tranquille” is what brought Francois Mitterand as France’s head of state.

To be fair, and I’m not sure it could be called “political”, the “I love life” campaign was undoubtedly a significant game-changer on the ground.

"The political campaigns rolled we are seeing are all either about self-flattery (Future), arrogance (Tayyar), or complaining (Lebanese Forces). All are about the advantages they possess. None is about the benefits “we the people” get."


Do you think citizens are inclined to update their attitudes/votes in response to political campaign messaging?

No. I don’t think so. Please refer to my answer to the first question. Lebanese voters are segregated into two categories. The first is made of the blind followers, the older generation, ones that will not change their attitude because, well, they’re simply blind followers. The Second category is about the new generation of voters, and most of those are cultured, exposed to the scene’s happenings and curious. I personally do not believe that a mere billboard with a nice punchline will dictate their vote. This generation is worried, angry and scared. Whether they decide to vote or not, and their choice of candidate will be an expression of those feelings.


What is likely to play a key role in shaping vote choice? (campaign events, debates, talk shows, interviews, speeches, social media, massive ad exposure etc.)

Interaction and engagement. Candidates are (presumably) the voice of the people. Their respective constituency expect a clear agenda and a solid promise of results-delivery. This can never happen through an advertising or punchline or an artistic mugshot. Interacting and “daring” to engage voters, creates a dialog where people express their worries and candidates promise to address them. Dialog shapes votes.


A ton of money is spent every election cycle on advertising campaigns, which are all designed to persuade voters.  Is all this spending largely ineffective and an absolute waste?

You should guess my answer by now. Yes, it is an unfortunate and infective waste of resources. I am not saying that advertising is bad, after all one has to wave to voters, tell them “I’m here and that’s what I propose” but, that should be followed by a dialog. Unfortunately with the sad campaigns and all subsequent firing and firing back, one can’t help but wondering where all that money came from, and why is it so easy to spend it on such cheap approaches.


Anything that you'd like to add?

Adlai Stevenson, a former American presidential candidate who lost against Eisenhower once said: "I'm not an old, experienced hand at politics. But I am now seasoned enough to have learned that the hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.”