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French Version

Advertising firms hit back in cellular row (Daily Star)

Allegations of misappropriation

The two advertising companies charged
with carrying out Lebanon's cellular
phone networks' advertising campaigns
have denounced Zahle MP George
Kassardji's repeated attacks on the

In Kassardji's most recent statement, issued Friday, he responded to Telecommunications Minister Jean-Louis Qordahihe's denials of misappropriation of funds by calling for the formation of a parliamentary investigation committee to investigate the contracts concluded by the minister.

Kassardji claims that Qordahi paid millions of dollars to advertise the new brand names of the two companies that are currently operating the country's cellular networks.

The two companies, according to the law, are obliged to change the names of Cellis and LibanCell, the former operators of the mobile networks.

In an interview broadcast over the weekend on NBN Television, the CEO of advertising company Intermarkets Talal Al-Makdessi said the government's need for advertisements to launch the new brand and the possibility of sending SMS messages to promote it, was in line with other media advertising campaigns.

He added that an advertisement is an investment rather than an expense, and that Lebanese media would be the most affected by the attacks targeting the advertising campaigns as the media has received instructions not to broadcast or publish any advertisements until further notice.

Al-Makdessi also talked about the possibility of meeting with MPs to inform them about the advertising industry.

He said that four advertising companies had submitted their offers to win the contract to promote the new brands of the cellular networks, including one company owned by the son of a high-ranking official. After the submissions, he said, two companies were excluded and dialogue continued with Impact BBDO, a major advertising agency in the Middle East. Intermarkets were awarded the contract to promote the new brand of the network formerly known as Cellis, which is managed by the Germany-based company Detecon.

Saatchi & Saatchi won the contract to promote the cellular network currently known as Libancell for Kuwaiti-based Mobile Telecom Company (MTC).

Saatch & Saatch CEO Eli Khoury, who spoke over the telephone during the televised interview, said his company has total freedom to deal with whom it wants because it is directly responsible for its actions toward MTC.

Al-Makdessi and Khoury said they were surprised that some newspapers had claimed a monopoly. "The press knows very well there is absolutely no monopoly and that competition is extremely fierce between both companies," Al-Makdessi said.

Replying to a question about the situation of cellular companies in neighboring countries,

Al-Makdessi said investments far exceeded the figures proposed in Lebanon. He gave the example of United Arab Emirates' telecommunications company Etisalat, which invests more than $20 million annually, and Saudi Arabia's telecom company, which invests even more. Al-Makdessi said that both companies were widely considered as monopolies in their respective markets.

Beirut 22-11-2004
Rita Boustany
The Daily Star

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