When it comes to discussing Lebanon’s role as the Middle East’s creative hub, it is not merely because of one or two reasons, but rather a series of factors that combine to create an environment conducive to providing a melting pot of ideas and proactive attitudes.
Lebanon is home to probably one of the oldest advertising cultures in the region, one that was creating competitive communication while other Middle East countries were still sloughing off colonialist “tuteledge.” This gave us a head start in honing our creative tools while at the same time being able to offer our talented graduates better job opportunities—Lebanon was the first country in the region to offer advertising at university level—and now we have dozens of universities, graduating hundreds of designers, art directors, copywriters, film producers and composers every year. No other country in the region can rival this. Simply put, we have the human capital and we know how to train it.
Our tradition for creativity also means that our professionals do not have to automatically look to the region—or the world—for work. Should they choose, they can work in Lebanon. This also makes it easier for those who use them. Highly qualifies and highly professional casting agencies, photographers and producers are based here and on tap.
Potential is there
Proof of Lebanon’s advertising potential is clear when one looks at the regional industry as a whole. Lebanon is home to many of the top CCOs and creative directors, who nonetheless provide an inspirational environment wherever they work in the region, nurturing and motivating others to cultivate a productive work ethic and fulfill their creative potential.
Lebanon’s quality of life makes it a natural environment for creatives to thrive. Its nightlife, mix of cultures, rich history, its innate ability to absorb positive cultural and social influences make it an ideal milieu in which to work.
Its liberal climate also offers creatives a wider and challenging range of areas in which to can test their talents. Areas such as tobacco, alcohol and politics are not automatically open to the advertising sector in other Arab countries, and the often risque and touchy nature of these sectors offers a fertile environment for the advertiser to plow his creative furrow and ultimately provide a deeper well of experience into which he can reach on future projects.
The Lebanese creative has the opportunity to work on local campaigns, unlike the region’s other creatives who, more often than not, have to work on Pan-Arab accounts. Working with local clients and, more importantly, targeting a local audience, gives the creative a chance to use specific local insights and cultural mores, which can lead to unique and groundbreaking results.
Think, for example, of a British creative who works on a UK campaign rather than a European one. The UK campaign will be able to tap into a more specific and richer cultural vein rather than a bland, safe, culturally unspecific and ultimately toothless campaign for the pan-
European consumer. That said, Lebanese creatives can also work on Pan-Arab advertising, which does give them access to bigger budgets and greater regional exposure for their talents. In fact, they get the best of both worlds.
Many are leaving
It is a shame therefore that many, especially in today’s climate of uncertainty and economic stagnation, are choosing to leave Lebanon in pursuit of work abroad. Undoubtedly, the Gulf offers more competitive packages and gives better exposure, attracting young creatives unburdened by family commitments, but it is also true that the Gulf, where the cost of living is increasing every year and where the daily rat race now rivals Europe and the US, is becoming increasingly expensive and stressful place to live. Ultimately, as they realize that, in the long run, Lebanon can offer just as much in terms of career and quality of life, more Lebanese expats will come home.
The Lebanese will continue to thrive in the creative world as their creative juices will continue to run, acquiring many talents, influences and skills along the way.