Letter from Kuwait ‘Those who cultivate wind harvest a storm’


Published in Campaign ME magazine, 29 March – 11 April 2009 issue, Page: 18.

The following is the full-length letter from Kuwait.

Based on (unconfirmed) reports of up to a 40% decrease in advertising spending in the first quarter of 2009 and unoptimistic forecasts till the year’s end leaves no doubt that the global economic crisis has cast its shadow on Kuwait’s advertising industry; but the truth is that the industry has been dented long before the crisis due to years of malpractice based on “if it isn’t broken why fix it” mentality.

Advertising has an important role to play in the marketing mix as “Advertising presents the most persuasive possible selling message to the right prospects for the product or service at the lowest possible cost”– IPA. Lets examine the situation based on  “cause and effect”.

1.    Cause: Price wars, “Brown envelope” culture and long credit.

Effect: Lower profit margins, cash-flow problems and redundancy across all ranks of the industry.

2.    Cause: Stock photos and clip art copy-paste creativity.

Effect: Poor creativity and ROI (return on idea). Client’s messages are neither standing out in the clutter nor differentiated from their competitors. As a result clients perceive advertising as a commodity and seek the services of the lowest bidder further contributing to lower profit margins.

3.     CauseHiring on the basis of “whom you know rather than what you know”.

Effect: Poor levels of industry practitioners. Media and printing press sales representatives compete with agencies by offering lower prices directly to clients than those offered to agencies – further leading to loss of business or contributing towards lowering industry profit margins.

4.    Cause: Lack of (credible) media research, transparency and absence of media auditing.

Effect: Misleading data. Hindering the function of advertising targeting “the right prospects for the product or service at the lowest possible cost”.

5.    Cause: Proliferation in the media mix.

Effect: Fragmentation of the budget (based on misleading data).

6.    Cause: Lack of enforcement of intellectual property copyrights laws.

Effect: Copying the communication solution of a totally different set of problems, which does not yield a ROI – instead result in a pandemic of copycat advertisements.

7.    Cause: The over-simplification and generalization of obtaining an advertising license.

Effect: Advertising is not acknowledged as a profession that requires certain qualifications to be practiced. Anyone can venture into the industry and cause havoc then exit leaving behind long lasting damage. Pre-press service bureaus, commercial printing press, advertising agencies, PR consultancies, calligraphers, sign makers, corporate gift items and premiums, event management, publishers and distribution companies – All fall under an advertising license with the exact same set of requirements.

Based on these stated facts; my conclusion is that the local advertising industry is in dire need of major restructuring. If such problems are not seriously tackled promptly, the industry will remain in crisis long after the world economy recovers as per the Arabic proverb “Those who cultivate wind will harvest a storm”.




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Louai Alasfahani

ANUBIS was a very old god of the ancient Egyptians, universally worshipped throughout the land and became considered the gatekeeper and ruler of the underworld; the “Guardian of the veil“ he was “Lord of the Cleansing Room” and the opener of the roads of the North. “He observed the weighing of the deceased’s heart against the feather of Maat [Truth] and reported his findings to the jury of the gods.


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