Beirut Shop’s ‘Campaign for Hope’

BOSTON If you are a marketer, there may be times when you feel sheepish about what you do for a living. You strike up a conversation with someone and find out he or she is a firefighter or nurse or even a grammar school teacher and you may hold back saying your work involves increasing market share.

Farid Chehab does not have this problem, even though he is as much a marketer as any CMO. Chehab is Leo Burnett’s chief creative officer for Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa. He is based in Beirut.

“It’s a crazy situation,” he said Wednesday from his office in the Lebanese capital. “If you hear any explosions in the background, don’t worry. It’s just bombs.”

On July 18, Bank Audi, a prominent Lebanese lending institution, asked his agency to create a “campaign for hope.” Four weeks into fighting that has claimed more than 1,000 Lebanese lives, it is difficult to think of anything that has lost more market share in Lebanon.

The client even provided a crucial visual element: a child’s drawing of the sun.

Chehab and company had a tight deadline: Bank Audi wanted the work completed in 24 hours. But only five of the shop’s 55 employees were able to make it to the office because of the bombardments.

Despite these difficulties, they created an ad that combined the happy drawing of the sun with clouds and a caption in Arabic that reads: “No matter how many clouds accumulate, the sun will shine on Lebanon.”

Within three days, the ad was sent to Arab satellite TV channels, Lebanese TV stations and placed on billboards in many parts of the nation.

Chehab said the work has been noticed. “You can’t imagine the impact of this campaign on the people,” he said. “They seem to think, ‘If an institution can afford to do this now, then there is hope.’ “

The effort has also inspired other institutions to start similar campaigns. “Since then all the banks have started doing campaigns to boost morale,” Chehab said. “There’s been a fantastic push of solidarity.”

It’s that feeling of solidarity that Chehab feels is the driving force behind the concept of hope in the campaign. Torn for decades by civil war, people in Lebanon were more likely to think of themselves as Muslim, Christian, Shiite or Sunni than as Lebanese. Israel’s latest battle with Hezbollah has changed that.

“This war made some solidarity in the country. People are reaching out to other people despite what they used to see as their differences,” he said. “The Christians were feeling separate from the rest of the population until they got bombed. Then they said, ‘Why the f- are they bombing us?’ “

Chehab said that in Lebanon, where the private sector also fueled rebuilding efforts after the last war, the entrepreneurial spirit has not been quashed.

“One business group has said it would repair the bridge to the Christian area of Beirut to the north,” he said. “Other businessmen get jealous and make pledges to top that.”