Next week, all eyes will be on the MENA region as the ad industry gathers at Dubai Lynx. But while the focus will be on the client and agency side of the game, there’s also a bustling production and production services community taking advantage of the region’s varied landscape. We caught up with Stoked co-owner and producer Rita El Hachem to find out more.
LBB> What have been the key trends you've noticed in advertising and production in Lebanon and the MENA region over the past year?
REH> Social media has played a major role in shaping and directing new trends. People are becoming more and more comfortable with sharing their own photos or videos online. It is becoming almost an automatic act. This spontaneity has reflected itself on the advertising industry. We have witnessed the trend steering more towards intimate and “human” driven films and away from the big glossy visual corporates. Comedy and life style have the lion’s share.
Many people had predicted that 2012 would see the rise of digital and branded content. The rise is happening, but the reality is that they remain small in comparison with traditional media, in our markets that is. 2013 will continue to see the momentum building up.
LBB> What are the main challenges facing the production industry in MENA?
REH> Money and impatience… Budgets are smaller and deadlines are shorter. Expectations however are higher, which is a good thing. However it would be more manageable if you had the needed time to figure out solutions. We have amazing creatives in the region, but cultural restraints, and censorship in some countries can be a hindrance.
LBB> What advice would you give to anyone considering shooting an ad in the Middle East?
REH> Try not to make it during Ramadan, this goes for the Gulf region though and not Lebanon. The Middle East, in extension to include the Gulf region, and mainly Lebanon and the UAE have a solid infrastructure for shooting. We have the up-to-date equipment including special gear like motion control, heli mounts etc… and very good crew who are used to working with international teams. My advice would be, bring it on, you will have an enjoyable experience.
LBB> As a location, what does Lebanon offer?
REH> For once there is an advantage to being such a small country. Within short distances you find diversified locations, down town Beirut looks like a European capital (with Mediterranean weather), snow-capped mountains, lakes, rivers, arid landscape. Back again to the urban areas there are lots of textures. Yes textures are us! We have a great crew with an amazing and generous attitude. They all almost speak English and French besides Arabic. We have all the latest equipment and Lebanon has around 300 days of sunshine. All our clients who have shot here are keen to come back. This in itself is the best testimony to what Lebanon has to offer.
LBB> Which projects have you been particularly excited about working on in the last six months?
REH> Stoked is only two month old. We are very happy that we have already worked on an exciting campaign for Toyota ex Drive Dentsu MENA. We produced the TV (four films), print and online campaign. This one was particularly challenging as we had only 10 days for preparation, there was only one week for casting in Tokyo and the set was built in less than three days. We shot it in Dubai with director Sebastian Hedin.
LBB> What does 2013 hold for Stoked?
REH> 13 is our lucky number and as such, the year ahead holds great excitement for us. We are passionate about TV commercials production; so we will carry on pursuing that. With the changing scene, we have started a department to develop content and long form. We have an unconventional fashion show in development, and a feature film script that we are stoked about.