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French Version

Ad industry 'must invest in research' - The Daily Star

Ad industry 'must invest in research'- Agency head touts strategy for future.
The Daily Star

The advertising industry escaped unscathed from the events of Sept. 11, but rapid international developments in the business are presenting local agencies with new challenges, according to Talal Makdessi, the head of the Team Holding Group agency.

Talal Makdessi warns that sector needs independent information if it is to respond to challenges posed by 'globalization'.

"The industry is changing due to globalization," said Makdessi at an informal question and answer session with students at the American University of Beirut on Wednesday. "Currently four to five major groups handle 80 percent of the brands worldwide," he added.

According to Makdessi, local advertisers did not suffer after the terrorist attacks on the US, but agencies are now specializing in research and media analysis to improve efficiency.
"Unfortunately, research has always been paid for and supported by the media companies thereby offering biased results," explained Makdessi. "I take this opportunity to appeal to the top 10 companies in the Middle East to study and invest in real research."

Turning to Lebanon, Makdessi said the country has the highest per capita investment rating, while at the same time having the lowest per capita in terms of real money.
"Out of a total industry investment figure of $362 million in 2001, real money did not exceed $40 million," said Makdessi. "This is what happens when a television spot in Lebanon costing $1,000 is sold for $100 as a result of bargaining and cut-throat competition."
Makdessi said that a lack of sound logic, especially within the government itself, was depriving the country of half a billion dollars a year in industry.

Makdessi cited the initially proposed media law regulating the audiovisual sector, prepared by Beirut MP Nasser Qandil before he became a member of Parliament.
"After amending it more than a hundred times, Qandil himself criticized his own handiwork," he explained. "This shows the extent to which our rulers have drooped, acting out on orders instead of basing their decisions on reason and sanity for the good of the country."

Makdessi described Lebanon as a place where advertisers are happy, advertising agencies fight for survival and the media is near bankrupt.
Local agents have the habit of presenting big budget ad campaigns to their principals and then executing them at low cost, thereby pocketing the difference and hurting the industry, explained Makdessi. But the situation is changing as more multinationals are allocating their budgets to regional advertising instead of individual countries, added Makdessi.

Regarding the Syndicate of Lebanese Advertising Agencies, Makdessi said that he had proposed a lowering of subscription fees from LL1.5 million to LL1 million for companies that are only locally present, while increasing them to LL2 million for multinational firms.

Makdessi suggested cancelling overdue subscriptions so that ad agencies would come back to work under the umbrella of the syndicate. When asked if graduates should find jobs locally or seek fortunes elsewhere, Makdessi said the Lebanese working in Lebanon are doomed to work until the end of their days as they do not enjoy any social security.
"It seems that exporting our human resources to earn hard currency is part of the government's plan to settle the $30 billion debt," he said jokingly.

Beirut 12-11-2002
Ara Alain Arzoumanian
The Daily Star

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