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Advertising and design companies around the Middle East have always worked on Ramadan greeting cards, which hold corporate messages and link back to the brands of their clients. Every year, the challenge gets even more interesting with a focus on creativity and visual impact that would surprise and inspire. But as globalization takes over the Arab world, interesting developments are easily noticed.

Starting with the design phase, all creative’s scout around for inspiration and ideas to create a card that is visually interesting, modern and creative. An essential part of “Islamic design” is the integration of old and modern Arabic calligraphy, the “star” of the visual, coupled with a layout design including interesting die cuts and new cardboard treatments and rendering the card an interesting design to display.

In the past few years, the display factor has become essential. With designers creating cards that would “stand alone” and display the message without necessarily being an actual physical card. Ideas range from regular cards to developed boxes that would hold two main messages: first, the company name, which would link the message to a specific brand and second, the actual message, which is a heartfelt wish and portrays the “humane” aspect of a caring company.

Recently, we can notice the introduction of Latin and Arabic texts at the same time, something never done in the past, a symbol of adaptation to the world and a way of sending a clear message and communicating the “Islamic life” to countries and people who do not necessarily understand the Arabic Calligraphy.

Similarly, the calligraphy, which is also a beautiful graphical element, is coupled with modern Arabic typefaces, an interesting thing to note. Calligraphy stays a visual link to the traditional Arabic past, a visual and historical story developing over time. In Ramadan, as people read and remember God’s word, they are reminded by its beauty and form (calligraphy is the Islamic expression of the beauty of Allah’s word).

I view this period as a form of advertising the Islamic world brand. All Arabs from around the Middle East unite in a similar manner (the everyday lifestyle adaptation to rituals). This unity creates a global brand forcing itself on the global audience. These greetings, given out to clients and businesses around the globe, are a simple form of communication. On one side, a certain company promotes itself (as noted above) on another side, it promotes the Islamic world, the religion, the people as one group, one complex identity, one brand.

This brand is currently evolving, integrating itself on a global, massive scale (Arabic typeface development is a simple example). On another hand, the global audience is more open to the Arabic language (with so many interested in learning it, and so many learning how to draw Arabic calligraphy) there seems to be surprising developments awaiting us in the years to come.

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Gabriel Ghali

Art Director, Blogger, Columnist, DJ

Blog: http://gghali.blogspot.com/

Twitter: @gabrielghali

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I want to thank Gaby for jump-starting this great collaboration and  his wonderful and insightful review of trends in Islamic art and the development of what is know as an “Islamic brand”, based on his many years of experience in branding and advertising in the middle east. Gaby has also provided the great gallery of cards, which we would like to contribute to as well. Just send your company’s corporate greeting card to contact [at] theidentitychef.com or add a link to it in the comment box.

Do not forget to subscribe to Gaby’s Blog and follow him on twitter for his amazing daily doses of positive vibes. While you are on Gaby’s blog download his Exotic Sensation’s Tracklist, which is simply divine.

Ramadan Moubarak My Dear Readers, I wish you Warmth, Empathy & Spiritual Uplift in this Holy Month.

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grafitti "Keep your coins, I want change"So you may have had enough of hearing this word, or are probably immune to the meaning behind it. Let’s see how powerful it would be to apply the same in the world of Advertising and Communications.

Anyone who worked in Advertising/PR will probably drone for hours about how clients think they know what s best for them , and how frustrating it is when campaigns do not generate expected results, or simply how thin the line is between a great success and miserably failed Ad.

I ve presented this solution to different Advertising/PR professionals, and it has never been met with anything less than an “AHA!” reaction. Reason being: it is simple yet profound: Change things up.

Benjamin Franklin wrote:

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results…

Advertising folks like to admit that they’re outside the norm. Crazy, you say? Maybe. More like non-conformists. We live by the only code which is: NO CODE.

But when it comes to generating results, attitudes are different. You can t afford to be too crazy (or Insane as Ben Franklin quotes above). Simply put, if you keep applying the same method /concept / approach you should not expect to get better/different results.

In a broad sense this has several implications for Ad folks. For example, if Brand X uses the same general platform for too long it risks two things: people get bored quickly or people simply get attached to the platform and will refuse the new platform.

Solution: Change things up.

If your research is not bringing you closer to the consumer, change your tools. Go out and be the consumer.

If your brief is not inspirational enough, break it down and use a different template.

If your media choice is not generating interest, explore alternative media.

If your client refuses to invest in a bigger campaign, change your selling technique or upgrade your negotiation tactics.

Simply put, same behavior generates same results.

The next time you feel inertia against a new idea by a client, just remember Ben Franklin’s statement – it is simply insane to expect your results to change if you continue doing the same things.

Go ahead. Change it up.

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BIO: Khaled Itani is an ex-AdMan with an MBA in Marketing from the American University of Beirut. With years of Advertising/Communications experience from Grey Beirut and JWT, Khaled is currently a Client Services Manager for a leading North American e-Commerce firm.

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Read Khaled Itani’s Previous Guest Posts:

And also, read other Guest Posts on the Identity Chef.

For some weird reason, I do not know how he does it, but Khaled always ends up sending emails into my inbox with precisely the answers to the questions that are on my mind, drawing from his personal experience and whatever rubbed off on him during his years as an Ad-man. Thank you Khaled for inspiring me and unknowingly satisfying my curiosities. It is an honor to share it on the Identity Chef.
So guys I am interested in what you think, what’s your perspective?

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Right when I asked the Question on trusting your guts and making tough choices, Khaled surprises me with this to the point post in my inbox. And though you all know how much I question my own decisions (it’s out of my control), especially career related, the fatalist in me rejoices at his words. Read on…

My advice to you on facing decision-making time.

Every other day I interact with individuals that are at crossroads of making life-changing decisions. The one thing in common among people weighing out their options is the stress that accompanies such a high involvement exercise. Making a decision is something we do every day; whether we pay attention or not: almost hourly we are faced with choices. But the decisions that really take their toll on our minds are the life-altering ones; the major ones that determine our career path, future, personal and professional progress.

Stress of decision making

via http://www.freewebs.com/kachukeland/paintguys.htm

Nearly a decade ago I received the single most helpful advice of my life: advice that I pass on to anyone who knows me on a personal level. And this is advice that I will share with you now. I was in the process of making a major decision, and at the period of time, this decision and its projected outcome were weighing heavily on my conscience. Until an old family friend helped me approach the decision-making process differently. Their advice was as follows:

“Any decision that you make, is the right decision.”

Yes it might be hard to conceive or accept. But it s very true. Any major decision that you are required to independently take will end up being the correct one*. How so, you may ask? This is very simply due to the ability of the human mind to adapt. Humans are able to cope and become accustomed to the situations they’re in (mostly) and are continuously looking for improvement. I like to cite an example that fortifies this advice and illustrate it.

Think of the last time you suffered a minor injury (a small cut or bruise on the arm, per se). The one thing that was definite after your injury is that your skin healed itself daily. Your body is built to recover, regenerate new skin, and eliminate the wound. Likewise, your mind is able to recover, regenerate new thought and attitude to help you cope with stress. Reflect on that while you review the last major decision you took. You will then realize how that same decision you made was the right one simply because you were able to excel and manage the outcome in a way that worked best for you. So if you re about to choose a university major, a job offer, or a change in career path: don’t stress yourself out. Face the decision with head up and a forward-thinking attitude being confident that you will be doing the right thing!

*that being said, I am by no means referring to decisions that involve unhealthy or destructive behavior. Those types of decisions are never the right ones obviously.

BIO: Khaled G. Itani is an ex-AdMan with an MBA in Marketing from the American University of Beirut. With years of Advertising/Communications experience from Grey Beirut and JWT, Khaled is currently a Client Services Manager for a leading North American e-Commerce firm.

If you still haven’t, Read Khaled’s Guest Post on Mastering Habit No. 5 to imprive your understanding of people and situations.

Oh & don’t forget to Participate in my Fringe GiveAway.

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Firstly, Happy New Year my Dear Readers. I have been submerging myself in work, but do not fret, amazing material is coming up on this blog, as well as a possible move and re-decoration :) The year ahead is full of surprises.
As usual I am VERY lucky to receive very devoted, much more experienced guest experts. In fact, my dear Khaled, was dedicated enough to write this post on his blackberry, within the same day! So, before I leave you with this post, I would like to thank him for enlightening me on there being more to number 5 that Chanel, and drop a spoiler: Khaled will be contributing 4 more posts to this blog on amazing subjects, imparting his priceless experiences in Advertisement, Communication and Personal Branding! So Read on and stay tuned!

Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. If you read/follow the work of Stephen R. Covey, then you have already recognized this as Habit Number 5 from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you don’t, then there’s a chance that this phrase may come off as sort of a cliche. Let’s explore how essential this practice is in effective communication: Understanding your respondent; Seeking to gather as much information as possible before you respond. As simple as it may it sound, I still find it the number one challenge in business and personal communications: the ability to put yourself in the other person s shoes (metaphorically, that is). The analogy I will present next is my aim at materializing this practice (seeking first to understand) and clarifying it.


I’ve developed a useful habit while driving over the past few years. I find this new habit particularly helpful considering the strict driving laws in the State of Arizona. Recently I’ve started applying the learning from this driving habit to everyday communications, and the results: fascinating.

The Habit: As I drive I always look beyond the driver ahead of me. I focus more on the cars in front of him/her rather than on this driver s behavior. This usually improves my reaction time and helps me better understand the driving dynamic.

The application: How does this help communication? Simple: imagine a normal conversation as a driving experience. You steer the conversation as you would drive your car: to get to places/destinations. Now imagine yourself as driver A. Imagine the person you are talking to as driver B (the car right in front of you on the freeway). And imagine all other concerned individuals to be drivers C,D,E all driving in front of Driver B.

As driver A, you are less prone to colliding with driver B when you understand how driver B is reacting/interacting with drivers C,D,E If you notice driver C coming to a sudden stop, you will focus more on slowing down BEFORE reacting to driver B s sudden stop.

Now apply that same logic to a human interaction: In order to better interact with someone, you need to first know why they behave as they do, how are they reacting to their surroundings, what drives/motivates them. These are the things you need to understand first, BEFORE attempting to put your points across.

Several years back, I applied habit number five with a client and it resulted in a successful communication flow. I was handling an account with a client who was continously angry, and hence agressive in their approach to matters at hand. A few months of having to deal with this, I found out 2 facts that shifted my paradigm:

1-The client was in fact a working mother, who due to the excessive amount of business trips was experiencing frustration and disconnect with her 2 year old daughter.

2-I stumbled upon a survey result that said ‘Working women, are the employees with the highest amount of stress levels’

Knowing these 2 facts made for a much smoother approach to my angry client. I understood the nature of her behavior was in no way related to the quality of work or the people that are delivering it.

In conclusion, Habit number 5 (Seeking first to understand, then to be understood) can be put to use by understanding that: the best relationship you (driver A) can have with someone else (driver B) is to understand how they are acting in response to other individuals (drivers C,D,E ).

BIO: Khaled Itani is an ex-AdMan with an MBA in Marketing from the American University of Beirut. With years of Advertising/Communications experience from Grey Beirut and JWT, Khaled is currently a Client Services Manager for a leading North American e-Commerce firm.

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patrick semaan logo Patrick is a dream guest blogger, he is someone a host blogger can only dream of. And as promised, he has made a come back and is answering all your questions about blog advertising. Also don’t forget to check out Patrick’s latest project the Gift Cheat Sheet,  that is available for free download, and follow him on twitter.


Read the rest of this entry »

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I want to say a big thank you to Patrick for being so excited about this guest post and sharing his expertise, tips and tricks related to advertising on blogs. But there is much more ground to cover, and Patrick has generously answer all questions we may have in second Q&A post. I will leave you with the post for now, but do not forget to check out Patrick’s blog – Projekt Cyan, his Portfolio as well as his many amazing projects. You can also check out Patrick’s amazing work space over at the #MYDESK post and do not forget to follow him on Twitter.

Advertising on your blog. A sin or a win?

Ethical? Un-ethical?

Advertising on blogs has been increasing dramatically over the past two years.  Individual entrepreneurs and companies are encouraged more and more to advertise their products and services on blogs and social networking sites that are currently flooding the internet.

There have been many “to advertise or not to advertise” arguments emerging within the blog world recently.  Some who are against the trend believe that advertising spots on your personal blog somehow force your loyal readers to be distracted or redirected by views or products that are not always useful or ethical.  Others think advertising is fine because it brings in revenue and puts your blog high up on the “super blog” ladder.

It works for me

I am a blogger who rents advertising spots on my design blog.  When I first started blogging three years ago the idea of advertising on my blog was out of question.  In addition to the reasons against blog ads I mentioned above, I also thought it would be unfair to my readers that I would be making money off their loyalty.

But eventually I began to look at it from a different perspective.  Some people read my blog on occasion, others visit it everyday, while some actually view it multiple times during the day; all of these visitors use the flow of information posted on it for various purposes.  Some read my posts to keep abreast of what’s going on in the design world, others are looking for a particular piece of information that I have posted about, and still others simply visit my blog for entertainment purposes.  In other words, my blog is essentially a medium that is constantly streaming a range of information that is being shared, commented on, and used by readers for both knowledge and entertainment.

So I concluded that if my readers are actually somehow benefiting from my blog, they probably would not mind if I benefited from it as well.

How does the money help?

Revenue from advertising can help pay the web hosting fees and can be used to buy resources to maintain and develop the blog, both of which help keep my blog running and active at all times for my readers to enjoy.  So in the end, it’s a win-win situation for both your readers and yourself.

some ad banners projektcyan.com - Patrick Semaan's blog

Which way to go to sell advertising space?

There are multiple ways to advertise on your blog.  Three of these are most popular, and based on my own experience I will share with you what I think are the good and the bad about each:

1-Google AdSense – The famous Google tool for advertising on the internet.

You start by opening an account with AdSense (you can access it using your existing Gmail account).  You can then add and configure your blog or website in your dashboard, select various shapes and sizes of advertising banners, and then get the codes to paste on your blog.  AdSense will then monitor and scan your blog contents to publish related ads in the areas you have specified for       advertising and depending on the “impressions” on your blog.  AdSense will publish static text ads or actual pre-designed adverts from various parties, and you get paid for the amount of clicks generated from these ads.

The good:

  • It’s easy to maintain and run.  All you have to do is paste the generated codes on your blog and it does all the work for you by posting ads and redirecting your readers accordingly.
  • Money collecting is hassle free: you get your money every month or however often you choose in your settings.

The bad:

  • Too many people are using it, meaning that the ads are spread out over a wider audience, which in the long run means that you won’t get paid that much.  Your website would have to have a really big “impression” number to start seeing enough money to make it worth it.
  • Text ads do not really look good and are nowadays ignored by internet users/surfers.

2-Third Party Market Place (I call them third party engines hereafter).

They are several market place websites or bulk-advertising buyers who can offer you similar advertising schemes for your blog.  They work very similarly to Google in the sense that they gives you the codes to generate ads on your blog, and based on the criteria you fill in your settings it will start feeding ads to your blog.  They also pay you money depending on how much impressions/clicks each of your ads generates. These third party engines work for both publishers and advertisers.  The third party market place websites I sometimes use are: BuySellAds.com and AdBrite.com

The good:

  • It’s easy to maintain and run.  All you have to do is paste the generated codes on your blog and it does all the work for you by posting ads and redirecting your readers accordingly.
  • Money collecting is hassle free: you get your money every month or however often you choose in your settings.
  • A little easier to use and less complicated than Google Adsense.

The bad:

  • Too many people are using it, meaning that the ads are spread out over a wider audience, which in the long run means that you won’t get paid that much.  Your website would have to have a really big “impression” number to start seeing enough money to make it worth it.
  • Text ads do not really look good and are nowadays ignored by internet users/surfers.

3-Do it yourself

If you can manage to do it all yourself, this is the best method of all and is what I personally prefer to do.  You get to decide where the advertising spots are on your blog layout, rate these different spots and catch potential advertisers yourself, and provide your clients with your specific blog statistics.  Sometimes if your blog is very popular you won’t need to publicize it: companies will actually come to you asking to advertise on your blog.

The good:

  • Gives you better control over what is being advertised and by whom.
  • You set your own fair rates based on your blog statistics.
  • You get paid a fixed rate based on your blog stats rather than on the number of clicks on the ad.
  • You can create your own advertising period schemes (so, per month, per quarter, annual, or seasonal).
  • Based on all of these advantages, you end up making more revenue than with the previous two options listed above.

The bad:

  • You have to manage the advertising slots and schedules yourself, which can be a bit tedious.
  • You have to manage payment collections yourself.
  • You won’t have any guarantees that clients will pay you on time unless you bind your clients with a contract.

Oh and by the way, you can also place advertising slots in your feeds!  This is very useful since a lot of people nowadays read blogs through their feeds.

Some tips for doing it yourself:

At the beginning you might need to give out some slots for free.  Identify potential advertisers who you think might be interested in advertising on your blog and approach them.  For example, if your blog is about food you should pitch to restaurants, fast-food chains, or even household electronic showrooms that sell kitchen gadgets.  Present your blog to them, tell them what it’s all about, show them your stats, and then offer them a free trial package such as a full month of free advertising for one of their products or a new menu item.  After a month or so, if your blog is getting the right audience they will recognize that this advertisement they placed on your blog helped increase their sales and they will want to continue advertising with you.

Interact with your client regularly; suggest some advertising ideas or campaigns from time to time (particularly at the start of certain holidays or seasons like Ramdan, Eid, or Christmas).

Remember that you are doing it all yourself, which means you have to know how much each available slot is being rented for, and for how long.  You also have to remind your client in advance that their advertising period will be ending soon and suggest renewing their contract.

Once you start advertising on your blog you have to keep your blog active with fresh contents all the time, as you need to keep those readership stats high.  The higher the stats, the more you can sell, and for higher prices.

Is it all worth it?

If it works out well then it is absolutely worth it.  You can make good money out of advertising – not only enough to pay your hosting, maintenance, and resources fees, but also to buy those geeky gadgets you always wanted!

Once again big THANKS to Patrick! And readers bring on the question while you have the chance !

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