Update: (See below for insight on the source of the original billboards)
Those of you living in Lebanon have probably seen the strange billboards cropping up all over the place, picturing flags of various Middle Eastern countries with the title: al-arqaam ablagh min al-kalaam (more or less, “numbers speak louder than words”). Diamond had a post about the billboards several days ago in which she expressed her puzzlement about the message of the billboards, and about the fact that they don’t contain a statement of ownership or credit; each one is signed simply, “The Lebanese”.
Quoting Diamond: “The flags represent Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Oman, Iraq, Egypt, and Bahrain. Jordan is not included, and neither is Syria. Next to each flag is a dollar amount, running from $734 million by KSA to $3 million for Bahrain, and a description of what the money was used for: housing units, development, and aid work.”
In the comment section of the post, somebody claimed credit for the campaign. It seems that it was the work of some kind of advertising agency, and the goal of the billboards was to draw attention to the millions of dollars given by certain [M14-friendly] Arab countries to the Higher Relief Commission following the 2006 War. The commenter writes:
“Glad that our campaign triggered your interest even if you found it “vague” although it wasn’t our intent:)
A3mal Al Ighathat and all the numbers you see and the countries mentioned in the ad, refer to the countries who sent their donations to the Higher Relief COmmission following the Israeli invasion back in June 06 and all the destructions that followed and subsequent money that went to the construction.
Hope we clarified the ad.”
Now, a campaign like this was bound to raise the hackles of March 8th’s equally media-savvy Aounists, for whom the Higher Relief Commission — one of the four large national funds used for (allegedly politically-motivated) reconstruction and tainted by accusations of corruption (like the Nabih Berri-controlled Council of the South) — is just another front for Cedar Revolution-ism. And it didn’t take long for those cheeky Aounists to mastermind their own campaign, now making the email rounds:
All of the images have the same priceless slogan at the bottom (“numbers speak louder than words”). There are a couple more images that I haven’t bothered posting with titles like “19 years of subordination and corruption”, “42% of the young have emigrated”, and “39% of the Lebanese elected the parliamentary majority”, but the pièce de résistance is the final image:
Who says Lebanon is not ready for party politics?
Update: Curious as to whether the Arqam/Kalam ads were designed by Saatchi & Saatchi (the alleged source of March 14’s advertising according to opposition critics, as discussed most recently in this article in al-Akhbar), I put in a call to S&S’s offices in Beirut, where nobody answered. I then tried calling the offices of Quantum, an agency with ties to M14 and the Lebanon Renaissance Foundation (and S&S too, of course), and the gentleman I spoke to explained to me that while Quantum was indeed responsible for the March 14 electoral campaign advertising, it had nothing to do with the flag billboards. Those, he said, were produced directly by the Higher Relief Commission. Furthermore, he denied that Saatchi & Saatchi had anything to do with any of this (which may suggest that M14’s media wing is trying to insulate the global brand from local politics… probably a smart move).
Bloody Cheeky Qn!
I have a better flag and slogan! Imagine my middle index finger raised and on a Flag with the words Khod!
And in the backround would be all the Lebanese parties flags ! ( every one of them)
That would be my message! Now I just have to dust off my citizenship get my self to Lebanon and vote!
Is the marijuana party making a comeback?
You should connect with the guys who did the irreverent hand of Fatima.
i have it from a M14 ‘activist’ and organizer of rallies, media campaigns etc, that Saatchi & Saatchi funds all Lebanese forces campaigns free of charge (because S&S CEO is a die-hard LF). So I don’t know what this means at the level of the broader M14 campaign but I can ask.
The parties involved in the opposition have a very easy task in blaming all of Lebanons headaches and black days on the current majority.
The FPM however have taken it to new levels, almost revelling in their new found talents.
Accusing the guilty of the obvious is one thing, but throwing stones near glass houses as they say is just blatant Hypocracy.
Looks like Obama’s “Hit Me” foreign policy is working wonders…
Invest in bomb shelters and sturdy umbrellas.
Bech, you mean Eli Khoury?
Maverick, I agree that life in the opposition is “sweeter”, as Saad al-Hariri has said recently. Maybe this is why he is planning to sit out if M8 wins.
I think a series of live TV debates between representatives of M8 & M14 would be more beneficial than billboards. The moderated debates would cover various important subjects such as the economy and foreign policy etc..
It’s just sad that this is how empty “democracy” is. When you give it any thought, it becomes astounding that francis fukuyama believed bullshit advertising campaigns represented the end of human history and political development.
You mean there are people that think like me in Lebanon?
It might be time to leave the comforts of the west and come back home!
Saatchi generally does not try and insulate itself from ‘local politics.’ Indeed, they cut their political teeth doing ads for the Thatcherites and then the privatization of state-owned industries in the UK. They did, however, recently sign up to do work for Labor (to much guffawing in London) so I think it is more about money than anything else. In addition, Saatchi-Israel has done free work on behalf of the Israeli government and Saatchi-Israel also recently won a multi-million dollar contract to brand “kosovo.” I would not be surprised if they have done work in Georgia, as well.
Did you ever see Hi magazine? It was a now-defunct State Department project to sell American bubblegum to Arab teenagers. I believe Saatchi-Levant got that ‘branding’ contract.
yes Qifa, Eli Khouri