The Truth about Fic­tion


Trans­parency in the busi­ness world is a dou­ble-edged sword, which by de­sign cuts both ways.

Though full trans­parency is a myth, it none­the­less goes a long way to in­still­ing trust in an or­gan­i­sa­tion and brand thereby lend­ing those added val­ues while en­sur­ing healthy and con­tin­ued growth.

Back in 2009, Har­vard’s David Wein­berger pro­vided a mantra for eth­i­cal deal­ings declar­ing that “trans­parency is the new ob­jec­tiv­ity,” and con­cluded that, “ob­jec­tiv­ity with­out trans­parency in­creas­ingly will look like ar­ro­gance. And then fool­ish­ness.”

And in an age where ac­count­abil­ity is ex­pected, lesser things can be kept se­cret. So, fight­ing that wave does seem fool­ish if not ab­surd. Then again, when it comes to the Arab world plenty re­mains ‘shrouded’ in mys­tery.

The line be­tween ‘re­port­ing’ and ‘opin­ion’ may be some­what blurry when writ­ing about cer­tain top­ics, which is un­der­stand­able and open for de­bate. How­ever, what is un­ac­cept­able is em­ploy­ing a sim­i­lar ap­proach to re­port­ing facts and fig­ures.

De­spite the fact that ‘num­bers don’t lie’, at least in the­ory, those, which are fab­ri­cated do tell de­ceit­ful truths. And if this were a magic show, then the shoe def­i­nitely fits! The prob­lem is not only spe­cific to the re­gion, but rather is a global one. Case in point is the re­cent ‘ar­gu­ment’ be­tween the two big­gest trade groups in the ad­ver­tis­ing world who can­not agree on how the Amer­i­can in­dus­try should deal with mount­ing con­tro­versy over trans­parency in the ad busi­ness. The is­sue was raised af­ter for­mer Me­di­acom CEO Jon Man­del ex­plained that “…me­dia re­bates are wide­spread in the ad­ver­tis­ing in­dus­try.”

And when it comes to re­ported an­nual ex­pen­di­ture fig­ures of re­gional me­dia, the con­tra­dic­tions scream loud­est. Ac­cord­ing to Ip­sos, ad­ver­tis­ing ex­pen­di­tures in MENA were down, though there were ex­cep­tions such as Le­banon whose mar­ket grew by four per­cent.

The re­port pub­lished in this is­sue, based on the of­fi­cial rate cards, em­pha­sises the fact that the num­bers are very in­flated.

What is also mind­bog­gling is that in most of the mar­kets, in­clud­ing those that have de­clin­ing ex­pen­di­tures, the num­ber of ads in­creased mean­ing that th­ese out­lets are of­fer­ing more for less with the clients ben­e­fit­ing most.

Many words come to mind when try­ing to de­scribe this ‘scan­dalous’ re­al­ity and it truly is a shame how ad agen­cies and TV sta­tions, over years and in some cases decades, spent a for­tune to cap­i­talise on their brand name only to later sell it for pen­nies.

Guess very lit­tle, if any­thing at all, re­mains of value in this coun­try, driv­ing the ques­tion, how low can one get when walk­ing with head held high?!

Cover De­sign by Leo Bur­nett Beirut

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