A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

the ABC’s of advertising

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on May 10, 2007

ABC, Lebanon’s main department store, started decades ago as a little five-and-dime on Hamra street. It has since become a much more upscale, glamorous place – so much so that Achrafieh’s mall, which it anchors, is called “the ABC”. That’s “Ah-bay-say”, as in French :-).

I have a soft spot for the ABC, as two of my favorite scarves came from there. They are beautiful, and people comment on them wherever I go. I love it when someone in, say, the St. Louis airport compliments me on one and I say, thank you. I bought it in Beirut.

Anyway. ABC has recently begun a new advertising campaign, one that I quite like.

The ads appear in local newspapers and on billboards around the city, in Arabic, English, and French, and I think they are brilliant.

They play with two-word expressions common in each language, super-imposing each word over an image that suggests products available at the store.

Here’s an example, taken in Hamra:


The text in Arabic reads “qahwa 7elwa”, which we might translate as “coffee with three sugars. The ad suggests that shoppers can get a coffee at the ABC (which does indeed have a cafe, as well as numerous restaurants in the mall proper), and also that women can become “7elweh” there thanks to ABC’s extensive make-up selection.


This one is equally nice (and no, the rubble behind the billboard is not war damage – its construction. an old building has been torn down to make way for a new luxury mini-condo building). The Arabic reads “sitt [al-]beit”, which means lady of the house.

Again, the images suggest that ABC sells things for women as well as household decor.

The English and French ads are equally nice: an English-language one shows a man hugging a boy and a cornucopia of ties, with the text “Family Ties”, and a French one shows clothing and a smiling boy and reads “Filet Mignon”, which separately mean “thread” and “cute”.

What I like about these advertisements is the way they link text and imagery directly to the notion of ‘department store’.

Advertisements here tend to have captivating visuals and text that is delightfully witty but … barely connects to the brand or product being advertised.

These advertisements use visuals and text to communicate “upscale, family-centered department store” – which to me makes them not only appealing, but also successful.


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