Recap: The 6th annual MENA Cristal Festival

So, as promised..this is my recap of the 6th annual MENA Cristal Festival.

First of all, before I start..I’m KICKING myself for not going up to Faraya sooner.  I absolutely loved it!  The snow, the view, the quaint village feel.  Being up there just felt refreshing.  Really refreshing.

On the way up with @ginoraidy (thanks again GINO!), I was reminiscing about the days in elementary school in Miami when they used to dump a truck load of ice in the playground during winter time (you know, to help us feel the winter/Christmas spirit), and my friends and I would play in the ice (which quickly turned into disgusting brown slush) pretending like it was snow!!  Haha, those were the days..

Anyway, as was to be expected, the InterContinental Mzaar Mountain Resort and Spa was a superb choice of venue, the speakers were world class, and the program was executed to perfection.  The ONLY problem was that, as @sdarine pointed out, I was one of the only attendees who was live tweeting from the event.  (A word (or two) about live tweeting: it is most definitely a challenge to tweet while listening to someone speak..  But I will say that I understand its importance..those of you following my tweets (and reading this post) were able to get instantaneous updates about the conference, you no longer have to wait until the next Communicate or ArabAd comes out to read a recap of the event..and I really believe that knowing that you guys were following my tweets made me focus that much more on gathering only the most valuable insights from the speakers.)

MENA Cristal Festival

@sdarine's tweet

I brought up the “Why aren’t more people tweeting” concern with the organizers, and hopefully..they will make more of an effort to get people tweeting next year.

As they (the organizers and some of the attendees) explained to me, and as I saw for myself during some of the Conferences, specifically “The MENA Advertising and Media market in firgures: analysis and prospects..” although digital spending is increasing in the region, it still rounds out the bottom of the list in terms of total media expenditure in Lebanon.  So, although “digital” may be the buzzword of the moment, it is still, at least in Lebanon, very much in its infancy.. The VAST majority of the Lebanese population still prefer and respond to TV, radio, outdoor, and print much more than digital/online!!

MENA Cristal Festival

Some insights I gathered from the conference: "The MENA Advertising and Media market in figures: analysis and prospects.." by Edward Monin, CEO - Ispos MENA

One of the Conferences that I enjoyed most was called “Wildfire and Storytelling” where Farid Chehab, Honorary Chairman & Advisor to the Board – Leo Burnett MENA and Bechara Mouzanar, Chief Creative Officer – Leo Burnett MENA gave a fascinating presentation about the 7 different types of stories, and related them to some of the most award-winning digital campaigns of last year.

MENA Cristal Festival

Twitter is the contemporary Greek chorus, the trend setters..ya hear that?

By far my favorite example, was the digital campaign by Japanese condom manufacturer Sagami (they manufacture the thinnest condom in the world), called “Love Distance”.  Sagami’s Creative Agency, GT Tokyo, “brewed an ad that successfully gels true love with a birth control product. This heart-warming interactive ad campaign, tells a story of a man and a woman, one living in Tokyo and the other in Fukuoka, 1,000km apart (In the ad, 1,000km was represented in mm), who have been in a long distance relationship for 2 and a half years.

In order to prove their love to one another, they ran towards each other from their home cities and promised to meet on Christmas eve.  The ad, which ran for a month, in the form of a live digital documentary, broadcasted the couple’s running path. Their texts, blogs, and video messages were open to spectators on the “Love Distance” website in real time..and spectators were encouraged to send them back inspirational messages as well..

To participate in the interactive site, you had to select to be the Man or the Woman, where you could only view one party’s journey.  To view both, you would have to put another computer set to the opposite sex, next to yours.  In other words, you would be separated. The documentary ran for a month, and only on the 24th of December, when the couple was reunited, the client was revealed, and the male and female portions of the site merged into one.” credit

I can’t find the award reel that I watched at the Conference, but I did find a video of the campaign for you guys to watch..I will see if I can get my hands on the reel, but until then..give this a look.  I never thought I would get emotional about a condom commercial/campaign..but I seriously had to hold back the tears after watching this one..

The creative team was genius to reveal the brand behind the campaign only at the very last moment.  Had they told viewers that the campaign was for Sagami’s world’s thinnest condom, they probably would have lost all viewership!  I know I would have stopped following them..

Mouzanar (Chief Creative Officer, Leo Burnett MENA) then went on to say how the industry will have to get used to more “non-branded” campaigns (I think the term is blind branded entertainment) like this..and clients will have to learn to be satisfied with waiting until the end of the campaign to reveal their name and logo.  In this way, they would have taken people on a meaningful journey, and made them genuinely attached to the product/service, without forcing it down their throats from the very beginning.

MENA Cristal Festival

Blind branded entertainment - the way of the future.

image credit

Brilliant.  Meaningful.  Emotional. Perfect.

Next, I sat through a debate on “The Role of Social” moderated by Nassib Boueri, CEO (MENA) – Wunderman – Young & Rubicam, between Arto Joensuu, Head of Digital – Nokia MEA and Hassan Kabbani, CEO – Mobinil.

MENA Cristal Festival

some of the insights I gathered from the debate..

and some more..

MENA Cristal Festival

what do you think?

and then came the conference, “Digital, can we kill this word for good?” by Jeremy Ettinghausen, Creative Director – BBH and BBH Labs.  Mr. Ettinghausen was the only speaker to have both his, and his company’s twitter handle on his presentation, naturally..I tweeted about him.  After the conference, I went up to him, introduced myself, and told him that I was the one who tweeted about him.  We ended up having a long conversation about his career (he worked in publishing for Penguin for 13 years, loves gaming technology, and has been at BBH for 4 mths) and his exciting work at BBH Labs.  (Really really fascinating and down to earth guy).  Had it not been for twitter, I would have likely never connected with him.. Thank YOUUU twitter.  You da bomb.

Aside from being a charismatic and compelling speaker, here are a few insights I gathered.  (He also showed a really hilarious video of The Today Show, taken when the internet was first coming out.  Essentially you see the presenters trying to breakdown the @ symbol and trying to figure out, between themselves and the camera man, ‘what is this internet thing anyways?’)

Here are some of the things I tweeted about during his Conference.

MENA Cristal Festival

My tweets..

@jeremyet (follow him!)

@bbhlabs (follow them!)

Then came the Magister Conference “Stranger from a strange land” with Akira Kagami, Executive Advisor and Global Executive Creative Advisor, Dentsu Inc, Japan.  Mr. Akira screened commercials from Thailand and Japan and showed us examples of his work.

The most admirable of which was The Phonebook…guys, you have to check this out.  Essentially it is an iphone, and a book (with actual pages) in one..  The Phonebook (Phone * Book) encourages young children (in the company of their parents) to embrace both mediums without leaving out the other!  The audience was in awe of this one..  Talk about the best of both worlds.

Here are a few other insights I picked up during his conference..

MENA Cristal Festival

Watching the TVC's from Thailand really made me want to go back!

Following the Magister Conference there was a Master Class with French Actress Emmanuelle Beart.  By that time, my phone had died, and I wasn’t able to tweet anymore.  In a nutshell, she spoke about her life as an actress, her father who had spent time in Lebanon, and her work as an activist.

And that pretty much sums up my day at the 6th annual MENA Cristal Festival!!  (Wheewww!)

Were you there? if so, what did you take away from the conference?

and…For those of you who weren’t there, what do you think of the insights I gathered?

and…for those of you who followed and RT’ed my tweets yesterday, THANK YOU!

*For more information about the Cristal winners, check out the MENA Cristal website:



Filed under life in Lebanon

10 responses to “Recap: The 6th annual MENA Cristal Festival

  1. What a day! Yes I did follow your tweets and this roundup is extremely comprehensive. Well done. You really need a super weekend now! 🙂

    • Yesss!! It was quite the week for me! Glad you enjoyed my recap. I know you of all people can appreciate how much effort it takes to write features both about yourself and about events! 😀

  2. menacrystaler

    it really was an enjoyable experience. the setting was fabulous, the operations and mechanics of the conference were smooth, the speakers were great, the topics were in line with what the conference is all about. I definitely enjoyed the conference portion a lot more than the awards part.
    But then again i guess its the same in all these functions.
    this was an excellent post, and i think that the organizers deserve a pat on the back, and look fwd to seeing who will be speaking next year.

  3. I very much enjoyed reading your recap: very objective, extraordinarily sytraigh to the point yet encompassing all the essential points of the conference. Great job!
    And I do agree with Mich, you really need a relaxing weekend!

  4. Thank you for the lovely recap Danielle, I very much enjoyed your live-tweeting as well.

    The organizer’s response is so funny, once again they miss the difference between a digital presence and digital advertising, trying to fend of the lack of the first by the low media spend of the second. Which btw is not entirely true, because digital media spend in statistical reports usually only includes spend on advertising, it does not even include spend on teh client’s website development (since these are done by third parties and NOT the ad agencies that do the numbers)… as you can see I am very passionate about this, but I am not gonna bore you with my internal qualms 🙂

    Once again thank you for the awesome recap, blind branding is one of my favorites, so I am glad to stumble upon such a great example!

  5. Pingback: Lebanese blogosphere weekly link roundup (2011/02/06) | +961

  6. I was following your live tweets! and enjoyed this recap and the Japanese blind branding example, so cute and funny at the same time. THANK YOU! 🙂

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