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Lebanon: gentle persuasion.

Lebanon's war economy meant big business for the country's advertising industry. Promotional events, sponsorship deals, even video production houses are springing up everywhere.

WRITTEN OFF by many as being depleted of intellectual and creative capital due to the brain-drain caused by the war, the advertising industry in Lebanon not only survived but prospered to such a degree that its position at the vanguard of advertising in the Arab world remains unchallenged.

The advertising industry found business even during the blackest days of civil war. Advertisers knew that Lebanese still needed food, detergents and, increasingly as the bombardments intensified, cigarettes and whisky.

Lebanon's ebullient advertising industry is not just a local success. A host of advertising agencies, video production houses and sponsorship specialists in Beirut all furnish the Gulf markets with high-quality ideas and ads.

Lebanon's advertising industry today fills around 8,000 jobs. Last year's advertising expenditure in Lebanon was estimated at $42m.

This year it is estimated to grow to between $50m and $60m. "The future for the advertising industry in Lebanon looks healthy as the country embarks upon a policy of development and reconstruction," says Hanna Anbar, editor of the monthly English-language Arab Ad magazine which, published in Beirut, focuses on the Arab media and advertising industry.

Something like 150 advertising agencies - some one-suitcase affairs, some giants - operate in Lebanon. They have been able to set a pace and a tone, and to provide a quality and service, unsurpassed by other nations in the region.

With war now over, opportunities and optimism for the future are on the rise. A new and important player in the advertising industry entered Lebanon last year when Saatchi and Saatchi advertising agency opened an office in Beirut.

In June another major player, the international advertising agency BBDO, returned to Beirut. "We are resuming our presence here because Beirut is regaining its role as one of the major centres in the area," Ibrahim Tabet, president of the BBDO office in Beirut, told Arab Ad.

"I think with the new communication facilities that will be available very soon in Lebanon it's the right time to make the move back. After 15 years of being on the outside, we are again in the limelight." BBDO expects to make a first-year turnover of at least $7m.

Servicing the advertising agencies are a growing number of video production houses. Lebanon remains as attractive choice for Arab clients wanting to have commercials made.

The top Lebanese video production houses possess state-of-the-art equipment. Such technology was previously a budgetary taboo for most Arab clients. In Lebanon, however, it does not have to cost the price it does in Europe.

Other factors, of varying importance, also entice the Arab client to Lebanon. The country's picturesque regions gives it a bonus over Egypt, while other production competitors in Greece and Cyprus cannot boast Lebanon's obvious cultural and linguistic affinities to (and know-how of) the Arab client.

Sponsorship and promotional events are also on the increase. The Marlboro car rally in Lebanon, an eagerly-awaited annual event, will take place in July and will include a number of Arab and European competitors.

Other international brand names of products as diverse as cigarettes, alcoholic and soft drinks, watches and chocolates are all sponsoring events in Lebanon. Local organisers are contracted to arrange an event - Beirut will this summer witness yet more speedboat races, tennis tournaments, motor-cycle water jumping competitions and backgammon contests - in order to reinforce the client's brand-image in the competitive Lebanese market.
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Title Annotation:Business & Finance; Lebanon's advertising industry
Author:Trendle, Giles
Publication:The Middle East
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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