Alain Shou­cair: On a Blue­train off to a Stel­lar Start

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Alain Shou­cair started his ca­reer in 1991 as an Art Di­rec­tor at Leo Bur­nett Beirut. Two years later, he co-founded Mind the Gap, a renowned de­sign and com­mu­ni­ca­tion hot shop. In 1996, Alain took a two-year sab­bat­i­cal to con­cen­trate on his other pas­sion: play­ing and com­pos­ing mu­sic. He then re­turned to the busi­ness, work­ing for Saatchi & Saatchi as well as Grey, be­fore join­ing Drive Dentsu in 2011 as the Ex­ec­u­tive Cre­ative Di­rec­tor for the Le­vant and North Africa re­gion. Through­out the years Alain has won nu­mer­ous pres­ti­gious in­ter­na­tional awards. In 2017, as Drive Dentsu ceased op­er­a­tions, Alain de­cided to leave the com­forts of global agencies be­hind to pur­sue the ex­cit­ing ad­ven­ture of found­ing and run­ning his own com­pany: Blue­train. Pre­sented as an un­con­ven­tional set up, Arabad had a talk with him to learn more.

What prompted you to leave an en­vi­able job with all the ad­van­tages that come with it to take a plunge into the un­known?

It was an idea I’d had for some time. It’s no se­cret that Drive was, for what­ever rea­son, com­ing to the end of its life. Some­time events just take con­trol and tell you ‘OK now’s the right time to do it’.

Do you think there is still room in Le­banon for an­other ad­ver­tis­ing agency?

There’s al­ways room for some­thing new in Le­banon. The busi­ness has to re­gen­er­ate it­self. Whether it’s here or abroad, we’ve seen the re­lent­less con­glom­eri­sa­tion of ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing to the point where we’re all work­ing for one of two or three global com­pa­nies. We need to have a fresh per­spec­tive. We can’t stand still and be­come stale.

Hav­ing worked in bou­tique agencies and network com­pa­nies, where do you feel you fit best and why?

Right now, I fit per­fectly where I am. Every­thing I’ve done in the past is the right back­ground and ex­pe­ri­ence for this. You learn from ev­ery­where you’ve been; both the good and the bad ex­pe­ri­ences.

What’s be­hind the Blue­train name?

Ha, ha. Maybe I should keep that a mys­tery. It could be about some sim­ple mu­sic chords or just a long and en­joy­able jour­ney. I’ll let you de­cide.

Ev­ery agency po­si­tions it­self as dif­fer­ent from all oth­ers, though that dif­fer­ence may not al­ways be clear. How­ever, your agency does come across as an ex­cep­tion to the tra­di­tional norms, why is that?

I look at agencies to­day and I see them hir­ing the same types of tal­ent. Ev­ery­one fits a for­mula and when that hap­pens, we ap­proach a prob­lem from the same per­spec­tive and end up do­ing the same type of work. There’s plenty of tal­ent out there that can look at ap­plied cre­ativ­ity in a dif­fer­ent way. Let’s get peo­ple in­volved who bring some­thing new in the way they think. Yes, we’ll need the ex­pe­ri­ence of peo­ple grounded in the busi­ness, but why not in­volve mav­er­icks and un­usual tal­ents who can shake things up? We have a be­lief that if you only know ad­ver­tis­ing then you’re only go­ing to do the same type of ad­ver­tis­ing.

Can you tell us about any project or ac­count you’re cur­rently work­ing on?

We’ve got an ex­cit­ing prod­uct launch and some clients who’ve moved from Drive. It’s full on.

We’ve seen the re­lent­less con­glom­eri­sa­tion of ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing to the point where we’re all work­ing for one of two or three global com­pa­nies.

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