Sunday, November 24, 2013


Advertising is changing and this time change is going beyond the tools and channels to the concept itself. With the kind of information available to consumers and their growing control over media and information consumption, is the advertising concept still believable? – What’s Next?

New Names for an Old Concept

Advertising agencies have been experimenting and diversifying into new disciplines and services for the past two decades. Digital, integrated, one-stop-shop, specialized agencies, local, glocal, social, traditional media, new media, media-neutral, and all the other names that have been used by an industry that kept changing skins instead of changing mentality.

Behind those different names and services, advertising is still keeping its old concept of using other people’s money to tell other people’s stories to a target audience that was always a mystery in order to achieve vague objectives and results that are rarely measured.

Growing Distrust

After the shameful role of “big-corporate” in the last global economic crisis and the growing availability of information and interaction provided by the internet, consumers are nurturing a growing distrust in big corporations and institutions. The individual consumer is gaining back her/his right for expression and action and voting every minute online and offline to support certain brands and to put down distrustful organizations and business models.

The old advertising concept based on designing and pushing promotional messages on people is being questioned with a growing pessimism and distrust. Beyond its entertaining aspect, the big award ceremonies, and the self-proclaimed gurus remains the naked truth: Advertising is a paid service destined to embellish the image of a company and a brand and to send a commercial message in a compelling and convincing way to the target customers inviting them to do business with that particular brand.

In a very similar situation, media is blurring the borders with political activism and in many cases it is being paid directly and indirectly to push the message of one group, one party and one ideology; therefore, it has lost its impartiality and the trust of the public.

At the same time, people are having continuous online and mobile access to huge amounts of data and will be able to search and share information and opinions about any brand or product. Bearing in mind that the online world is not immune to aggressive business strategies using traffic and data collection.

What is Next?

As far as brands are concerned, the second name of the internet age is “Truth”. Transparency is not an option anymore for brands and businesses; it is a must and a necessary condition. Any lack of transparency might have serious repercussions on the brand relationship with consumers.

A free and transparent flow of information between brands and consumers that is mostly done through the internet is quickly replacing the need for one-way brand communication. This will accelerate the need and the search for the Next form of advertising.

How “Nextvertising” would look like?

1 – Don’t Fear The Future, Create It.
If advertising is bringing real added value to the business table, it will always find new and better ways to deliver this value. To cope with the changing times, advertising should go back to the roots and reinvent its role. Advertising is not about writing copy, designing ads, servicing clients, creating websites, and mobile applications. Advertising is about connecting consumers with brands that have better solutions for their problems. People who are fit to be in the “idea business” should be able to reinvent this role and keep it relevant.

2 – From Telling the Story to Living the Story.
Let us be realistic, less and less people believe the stories that companies and businesses keep telling. It is not about the budget, the media choices, how big is the client company or how creative is the agency. Today’s consumers believe in brand experiences nothing else. In the Next era of advertising brands are going to be the message, and shared experiences are the reasons-to-believe. It is not anymore about storytelling it is about life testimony. Budgets can be shifted from creating a story to covering a real experience and brand contribution in a compelling and positive way. Being a good and caring brand goes beyond merely keep saying that through communication. It requires an authentic and positive experience delivered and shared in a transparent way. It is not the “brand promise” anymore; it is the “brand delivery” and “clear” is the new “clever”.

3 – Ideas before Ratios.
Accountants can manage agencies and run them by ratios to the satisfaction of the big holding groups, but real Advertising lives and dies by ideas. Vision, creativity, innovation, and problem solving are the materials for building solid bridges between brands and consumers. Good management systems are always needed to create the best conditions for ideas to come to life and to grow for the utmost benefit of brands and businesses.

4 – Measure More To Manage Better.
For many years, advertising decision were mostly based on instinct, personal taste, and relationships with limited reliance on measurement and scientific evaluation to guide the process. The big multinational brands have always been known for their heavy usage of research, but the rest of the market was shooting in the dark most of the time. Advertising is an important part in a big professional business chain, and has to deliver on clear marketing objectives. Understanding the brands relationship with consumers/customers on an ongoing basis is necessary for advertising to deliver. Advertising can work on these relationships to offer more choices and recommend better solutions without any conflict with the client’s objectives and interests.

5 – To Be An Industry, Behave Like One.
In the next advertising phase, it will be good to have dynamic industry bodies that can have an active role in regulating and developing the business. Possibly multiple professional organizations that can add value and improve standards in various areas; people can gather by interest, by profession, by cause, and work together to improve and advance the whole business.

As a final word, we believe that this wave of change could be a real advancement opportunity for advertising and its role in business and the economy if we know how to deal with it. One more thing, we hope that ideas and professionalism will finally overcome the circus.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

3Cs for Lebanese Communication

(First Published in ArabAd magazine - October 2013)
“A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”
Mahatma Gandhi

Lebanon and Communication

A lot said and written about the Lebanese Miracle and the imaginary bird that rises from its ashes. We have not left any birds except those in supermarkets and the only miracle is that we still have an imaginary country and a passport for those who wish to return for retirement.

Why? – We can give you at least 128 reasons and more but this is not the intention today.

Lebanon and Advertising have a perfect fit made in heaven. If we want to define communication and advertising as using ideas and language to promote and facilitate business and trade, we can trace this practice back to the invention of the Alphabet by the Phoenicians in order to communicate with other peoples and to promote their business and trading activities. Do you think this stretched too much? – No. This is just being Lebanese. 

In the modern times, Lebanon and communication had again a very strong fit that manifested in so many ways. We can also use branding and communication terms to give our diagnosis for Lebanon’s ongoing dilemma. It is a brand with “confused identity” and lack of “unifying purpose” and “rallying promise”.

The Ingredients of Success
The current overall situation in Lebanon is affecting every single aspect of life and in particular an industry that relies heavily on a healthy economy and stability.

Let us try to forget for a moment the famous cliché about how we invented advertising in the Middle East and how we use to rule it and try to understand the real market situation in Lebanon and how can we still develop and boost the communication industry in the country. Is the Lebanese success in communication related to an era that is gone or to a number of necessary conditions that can bring this success again to life? 

We have to admit first that the “Lebanese personality type” has a special talent for communication of all sorts and this is a real piece of Lebanon in every one of us. However, this is not enough to have a healthy and successful industry that can grow and compete.

The proof of the above is the phenomenal success of other cities and countries in the region that managed to gather the right recipe and the right ingredients to create a very successful communication industry at a world-class level.

Let us explore these “ingredients” with the hope that we can use them to “reconstitute” our success in advertising and communication, a success that will last and grow in Lebanon and beyond.

The 3 Cs: Culture, Context & Creativity
If we examine the ingredients of success, we will discover 3 main areas that we need to focus on and we are going to call them the 3Cs.

#1 – Culture
A good advertising and communication industry needs a good culture, a culture rich with ideas and storytelling.

Culture is about the shared language and understanding that makes communication so easy and interesting.

Culture is about the values and the fights that rally groups of people if not the whole nation around certain ideas.

Culture means good education, better universities and more specializations related to advertising and communication. It means new specializations every day to be up to date with global development and to be ahead of the market so our story will be more interesting and attractive.

Culture is about instilling the spirit of entrepreneurship in the new generations so early in life they can learn to start a small business, such as creating a mobile application that can make them millionaires at 14.

Culture is the rich “national cloud” of ideas, stories, jokes, songs and slang expressions that connect people and make them smile and take action.

Culture is freedom to think and to express ideas through all media of all types: traditional, new and social.

Culture is watching much less of the poisonous local news and see international channels to learn and discover.

#2 – Context
Context is a healthy economy that can attract, generate and pump a good flow of capital and resources in the country’s system. The communication industry’s role is to be a catalyst for business. For this industry to grow, it needs other industries to keep creating and selling new products and services.

Context is infrastructure, good roads, good telecom services, excellent internet that connects people and companies inside and outside the country.

Context is favorable legislations to encourage business and favor an easy establishment of new companies and startups.
Context is Free Zones, business incubators and all the widely tested and proved formulas that encourage individual and institutional investors to put their faith and money in new projects in Lebanon.

Context means security, political stability and visibility for business to start, grow and develop.
Context means excellent foreign relations for Lebanon, starting with the all the Arab countries.

#3 – Creativity
Creativity is ideas. Ideas that make or break businesses, brands, countries and political parties.
Creativity is talent. First grade talent nothing less.

Creativity is expression without fear from any form of oppression. 

Creativity is motivation. Motivation to change, to come up with new ideas, new services and products that can change the world.
Creativity is innovation that gives us an advantage over the competition. Whoever was this competition.

Creativity is about knowing ourselves, our country, our strong assets and our limitations and how we are going to change the world.   

The Way Forward

The list can go on and on; but if we want to change and regain the shine of the Lebanese communication industry, everyone can start in her and his area and the collective effort will eventually cover all 3Cs and take us forward.
By the way, the Lebanese communication industry can also lose few Cs for a better future and better business.

The 4th C
The 4th C is a small Cedar tree, a virtual one that is in the heart and soul of every Lebanese, in Lebanon and outside. This is the “country” that is inside every one of us, and that we take with us everywhere we go. This is not about poetry, but about a solid reality built by all the Lebanese success stories around the world and in every industry. This is the very “Lebaneseness” that make us so good in communication, in creativity, in business, in arts, in culture, in survival, and in so many other things. The same Lebaneseness that can succeed everywhere except in building a real country in our homeland.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Branding in the Digital and Social Media Age

“It is not slickness, polish, uniqueness, or cleverness that makes a brand a brand. It is Truth.” ― Harry Beckwith

 Abstract: Every era brings a new set of challenges and opportunities. The current explosion of the digital space and social media has deeply affected the marketing scene and how brands are behaving. We wonder whether the core principles of branding have also changed.

Branding and the Digital Age

Branding, which is the art and science of building and managing brands to deliver more value for businesses and consumers is “in theory” media-neutral. However, the “how” we connects and interact with people and brands is practically defining many aspects of who we are and where our society is heading.

Strong brands are built on a foundation of meaningful brand strategy and distinguished identity systems that makes them attractive and unique to certain groups of people. Whether the interaction with customers is happening in the physical world or online, through one channel or many channels, the core principles of branding are not supposed to change. However, the manifestation of the brand and its connection with consumers have taken a totally new dimension in the digital age.

Suddenly it is the 1990’s again when every brand wanted a website. Now every brand is looking to have a presence on all the main social media networks and to have a smartphone application.

This is adding many layers of complexity to the brand communication system, but also creating new markets and adding new opportunities for brands to interact and connect with consumers and online communities.

With the new horizons that Digital and Social are opening for brands and businesses comes a clear challenge for these brands to be up-to-date, attractive, interesting, and consistent in all their online and social networks interaction with their target groups.

Control Shift
In the traditional communication world, brands and their advertising agencies controlled the communication process and TV had the central and most influential role in building brands and forming public opinion about various topics through the delivery of news, entertainment and advertising.

The theoretical distinction between the interests of advertisers and media was probably a myth – the same applies to the demarcation between politics and media where interference presents serious damage to the concept of democracy and free public opinion.

One of the main characteristics of the present online times is the shift in control from companies to the consumers and users. Brands and businesses do not control what they want to communicate about themselves anymore. Instead of the tightly controlled one-way and single-channel communication activities through traditional media, brands are now in continuous contact with consumers through a growing number of touch points and channels around-the-clock.

Moreover, it is not the brand that decide the time and channel of communication anymore; consumers are now taking more control and the initiative in searching for information and looking up brands online and offline. Besides the information aspect, consumers are having powerful means for sharing and forming opinions and experiences about brands in social media and across the online and digital space.

The Way Ahead
With the continuous development of technology and broadband, the digital world will continue to gain in importance and influence as the main source of information and interaction where brands have to exist and interact with their customers and consumers.

The near future will add another layer of complexity to the equation where the “Mobility” factor will be in sync with digital and online. More people are accessing the internet through their mobile devices and very soon, cars and all other mobility vehicle will be continuously connected to the digital world. People will be connecting their smartphones to smart systems in their cars that will put them “online” all the time with all the possibilities that will be added for social and work activities. To complete the picture, we need to add the “mobility” factor to the equation. Therefore, the future is going to be Digital, Mobile and Connected.

Businesses and companies will have very little control over their communication with customers, but will have to enter the game of digital-mobile-connectivity according to new rules that are based on more transparency and truth. Here branding will have to adapt and evolve to the dynamics of the new digital world. The schizophrenic approach between what brands use to put in their Vision and Mission statements and what they do in reality will have to end – This applies to all sorts of brands, commercial, artistic and political as well.

Brands are using a considerable part of their communication budgets to create an online and digital presence; but this will not necessarily secure for them online and digital success.

People and brands are spending more time online and on social media networks, which is expected to become the norm for an important number of people and for a whole new generation.
Brand Truth
In the new world, all brand activities have to be true to the brand 24/7 as consumers are continuously checking the brand and its activities. In this context, the best advertising for any brand is its true self.

The more touch-points we have, the more consistency, transparency and truth are needed from brands – this is the only golden rule.

Since “branding” has always been a very human concept, the answers to branding questions for the present times can be always found in very basic human behavior. The best strategy not to be caught lying, is to always say the truth.
Branding 3.0
Branding that flourished in the physical world of design and communication will discover unlimited opportunities to connect and build brands and communities online. Like advertising and other brand services, branding has to adapt to the digital world and embrace the great opportunities that are made possible.

In the Digital Age and Social Media reign, the role of branding is becoming even more important. Facing the proliferation of media and the fragmentation of the connection channels, brands will have an increasing need to have a very clear and differentiated strategy and identity to stand out and appeal to their various target audiences.

This clear and differentiated identity will be delivered by both the strategic and creative sides of branding. One clearly defined and expressed brand “Truth” will be able to create a stronger and more enchanting connection with customers and consumers across different media and social networks.

Strategic branding is not going out fashion in the digital world; on the contrary, it is becoming more important and needed to cut through the noise and the over-communication in the market place.

One more time, technological advances and market dynamics are working for the benefit of the consumer by forcing brands to be more transparent and genuinely good in order to be allowed to enter people’s life and their social environment.

This new and enhanced Branding will have a new set of rules to better deliver in the digital age.

The 7 rules of branding in the digital age

1 – Brands should be always ready to connect online and offline 24/7.

2 – Brand experience is the final judgment for brands – brands will always be as good as their last delivery on brand experience.

3 – Online, “Free” is not enough; you have to be “Interesting enough”.

4 – Unless you are already a mega brand, do not expect mega success online. For good brands, it will eventually happen.

5 – Online is Ongoing – brands need a very high energy level to cope and deliver 24/7. If you are not ready or do not have enough content and resources, better to be very selective.

6 – Always innovate, but always stay relevant to the brand core promise – It is possible.

7 – Brand identity and manifestations have to work equally good online and offline.

A brand that is always consistent, always delivering on its promises, and always true to itself and to its customers and consumers will be recognized and praised online and offline. This is a basic expectation from big brands, now it is only more urgent and necessary for their success and survival.

The core principles of brand building remain the same, but branding manifestation and applications have to adopt more transparent and innovative ways partly because of the huge development of the digital realm and social media.

It is true that the past few years have brought a lot new elements to the branding and communication marathon. However, we would like to remind brands and businesses that social media might have invented a very sophisticated running shoe, but it has not invented running.

manifesto is a consulting firm specialized in brand strategy, innovation and communication.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Future of TV

“You’ve gotta move forward … as soon as you can figure out what that means.”                             Don Draper in Mad Men, Season 2, Six Month Leave

Abstract: TV is a very important medium in our life and the TV industry has been always changing and adopting new ways and technologies. This time, the change is big and will take the “TV product” that TV stations and media companies are offering to a different level. This might be alarming for some people, but we believe it will lead to more control and better experiences for consumers. It also can be great news for the prepared brands.

Like Everything Else, TV Is Changing

New trends and technologies are changing the way we live, interact and consume everything including TV programs, news and content. If the television set has given its name to a whole industry of content producers, media houses and broadcasters with all the companies and jobs that revolve around them; the same TV set is not going to remain our main tool for news, movies and entertainment watching.

Moreover, consumers’ relationship with TV watching is also changing. Technology innovations are actually going in the right direction, as we see it at least, and giving consumers more and more control over their content consumption as well as their relationship with their preferred programs and stations. The more technology will develop, the faster the current TV model will evolve to give place to a more personalized TV experience.

Things are bound to change; either by throwing all these elements in the “market pot” and wait for a new balance to come out; or by actively contributing to creating the future of the TV business with one clear objective in mind: to offer customers a better experience – Money and success usually should follow. 

TV Media Business

This curve jumping change is also going to change the nature of the TV ad business. The products and the tools of the TV media sales will not be the same.

·         The “holy grid” of TV stations is eventually going to disappear.

·         Linear TV model for All where the stations and the network control the delivery is going to shift into a more personal and flexible TV experience that is more controlled by the viewer.

·         The new TV experience will go outside the current home viewing setting thanks to the growing coverage of Wi-Fi and mobile internet.

·         Telecom companies will be in a position to provide the backbone and delivery networks for TV services and will be able to claim a bigger cut of the market.

·         Global brands like Google and Apple might come up with complete ecosystems for their TV experience that can bypass many players in the current chain.

·         Channels will be replaced by applications (that will offer a new experience and on multiple viewing devices including smart TVs)

·         Waiting for TV programs, and having to watch advertisements will become something of the past if not from the past already in some other markets.

In addition to TV stations, the TV related media business would have to reinvent itself. It also can take the lead in change in order to maintain the competitive edge of the brands they represent.

TV stations that are funded by governments do not follow the same market dynamics and do not have the same concerns; but eventually will embrace the same technology and the same consumption mode.

With the disappearance of the linear model, TV advertising and the whole model of TV monetization will need to be reinvented to link the new TV experience with a fair economic model that is good for both the TV industry and for the consumer who is used to Free TV in many markets. The way we see the future model is a combination of a lot of free general content combined with very affordable paid premium content whether through subscriptions or advertising.

Consumers will be able to customize their viewing experience, using their online profiles across different devices and platforms which will offer marketers with new possibilities for accurate consumer segmentation and profiling.

Create Content and Adapt Content

The change is not going only to affect the TV consumption mode and TV advertising but will also need a new strategy for Content.

Viewing time, place, mode, and device will all have their influence on content consumption and the type and format of this content.

Besides political and business News that has to be Immediate, Accurate and Insightful, but will fade very fast; other types of content will have a longer shelf-life, and even they can have many lives through reruns, re-diffusion, dubbing and adaptation to different markets and different audiences around the globe.

Here we are still talking about the same old formats of movies, series and entertainment programs in initially designed to be consumed via a TV set facing people on a couch with relatively an uncompromised attention.

However, this is not going to be the only consumption mode. Therefore, content has to be adapted and new content created for different devices, occasions, timing and places.

The new TV consumption devices are highly reliant on broadband and Wi-Fi and have smaller screens, and follow a different consumption mode especially for smartphones that are by nature used “on-the-go” “when people do not have the kind of time and attention compared to traditional viewing scenarios.

Factors like these will command new content or new formats of the same content.

The Drive of Change

Change is not something we fear and try our best to deal with it when it comes. Change is the real market driver that will keep pushing brands and businesses to constantly improve and deliver better products and services to consumers.

Even more, change is more likely to happen when we are not satisfied with the status quo, or the current state of things or technology. Change is necessary for each and every category to keep improving, offering better products and better services.

For brands with clear purpose and real consumer focus, the drive for change is the desire to offer a better consumer experience with every new product and service. This is what differentiate between brands that are driven only by the economic side of things and those that are keeping an eye on a mission beyond business that can varies in terms of the articulated “mission statement” but at the end it will contribute to same objective.

What Could Be exactly the Future of TV if left to reactive corporate decisions? – It will be difficult to predict.

However, what “Should Be” the future of TV for innovative and inspiring brands? – We can give you some hints about it:

·         The Future of TV is more enjoyable, more personal and more rewarding.

·         The Future of TV is more flexible and can happen anywhere anytime.

·         The Future of TV is going to be free or very affordable for some premium services.

·         The Future of TV is going to be more diversified with programs adapted to small screens, big screens, long viewership, short viewership, high attention, low attention, etc.)

·         The Future of TV is going to need a new format for advertising or monetization in general.

 Now, what choices do we have? – Wait or Innovate.

Wait or Innovate

If “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”, the best way to deal with the changing TV scene is to be part of this change and innovate instead of being forced to adapt to innovations.

Let us offer consumers new and more enjoyable experiences instead of keeping them imprisoned in an old system.

The only two alternatives available for all the players in the industry are Wait or Innovate.

Wait until others try the new models then follow with some learning or, Innovate, lead the way and be the first to come up with new offerings and better experiences for consumers.

We usually expect the market leaders to innovate invent and come up with new ideas and systems. But the good news is that you do not necessarily have to be the market leader or the biggest player in the category to reinvent the category.

Nokia, was not the inventor of mobile phones when it managed to ride on a booming category to the top of the world. Falling from the top was very hard; but that is a different discussion.

Apple was not even a mobile phone brand when it entered the market with innovative and enchanting products that changed the mobile phone category forever.

Red Bull was not the market leader in beverages, when it created a completely new market and changed the category forever.

Tesla was not the market leader in automotive when it has managed to change many old perceptions about the electrical car through innovation and “visionary common sense”. Now the market leaders are catching up while they had all the time and resources to be first.

The same applies for TV. Globally the best innovations are not coming from the biggest networks. On a regional level, the next TV market leader position is still up for grabs.


manifesto is a consulting firm that deals with brand strategy, innovation and communication.