Elie Charbel: 'The human capacity for resilience is great'
Posted on 2022 Feb,15

Lebanon has been in a state of emergency since late-2019, pummeled by a crisis after another, political instability, social tensions, and hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of everything came the devastating explosion that rocked Beirut on 4 August 2020 followed by an economic crisis that keeps worsening. One year later, ArabAd wanted to know from the ad agencies in town how they thrived throughout such a tumultuous 2021. We asked Elie Charbel, Managing Partner at A2Z Media . He answered.

How would you describe in one word the year that past?

Chaotic; but the human capacity for resilience is great, and resilience is what allows us to bounce back and keep moving forward.


Were you able to find certainty despite all hardships and adversity crippling businesses in the country?

When dealing with the uncertainty around us, many people and businesses responded by shutting down. In order to protect our people and our partners, we embraced that change instead of fighting it or hiding from it, and we shifted our focus into a massive regional expansion that allowed us to create more jobs in Lebanon and grow our client network in the region.


Did you feel at risk at some point of getting pulled out of the game? And what helped you reinforce your team’s belief in Lebanon and strong commitment and dedication to sustaining the business?

We’ve always been selective in our client selection process and we tend to work with partners that have a long term digital potential, from a marketing perspective to online revenue streams because we knew that digital marketing is the future. Our team was also built on having this skillset from the get go. Nobody was expecting COVID, but we were expecting a digital revolution. We focused on our core strength in order to help channel our partners into a seamless digital transformation.


How have you managed to channel your energy into keeping up? 

Keeping a daily routine and staying disciplined as an individual helped a lot. I mainly focused on whatever I was in control of and where I was able to make a difference and adapt. The rest I considered as noise.


What has been the most important thing you’ve learned over the last 12 months?

On a personal level, I learned the importance of mental health and that being happy overcomes anything else in life. On a business level, we built a small team with the sole job of thinking of what would take us, or one of our partners, out of business and develop solutions to overcome these challenges.


“We shifted our focus into a massive regional expansion.”


Has your passion and energy remained intact in such a gloomy climate?

Life is a journey of both hardships and success, and the last couple of years have definitely been challenging, to say the least. However, struggles mean challenges and opportunities, and as the world around us is changing, we need to do the same. Luckily, I love what I do, and the digital world is constantly evolving, which keeps both my passion and my motivation ignited. 


The Lebanese crisis —and the global sanitary crisis —have challenged managers and marketers to rethink the way they do business and plan the future of their organizations. Where the biggest opportunities lay mostly for you? Where does “new business” typically come from today?

In the way we have restructured our company into a fully remote regional digital agency with the largest team located in Lebanon; our main new business comes from the GCC and we are planning an expansion into North Africa in 2022.


What are the shifts that you foresee taking place in the year ahead?

I believe that Artificial Intelligence makes a natural fit for advertising and we will see this explode even more in 2022 complimented with Machine Learning. Briefly, the clients will be able to know what will work for them in terms of campaigns, before any dollar is spent.


What do you think will be your biggest challenge in 2022?

At the pace we’re growing and the forecast we’re having for 2022, the biggest challenge we face in my point of view is the ability to keep our sports team like company culture when we have over 100+ team members. This is our number one priority!