Thoughts On Sensodyne Arabia's YouTube Ad

If you happen to live in the Middle East region namely the Levant and the Gulf and enjoy  YouTube as much as the next person, then you probably have already been subjected to Sensodyne's True White video ads which have taken by storm this channels to a point where it has become a nuisance.

First, the ads:

Aside from the fact that the ads are omnipresent on any video you might be attempting to watch there are several issues that might be open to discussion about the type of ad that's been chosen and its targeting.
  1. Type of Ad
    The ads are following a technique which used to be adopted in the 60s for promoting, you guessed it, cigarettes. Doctors were spokespersons for brands such as R.J. Reynolds the manufacturers of the Camel cigarettes.

    You might say, fine, toothpaste is not cigarettes. The point I am trying to make is that this technique is ancient and antiquated and perhaps still valid on traditional media. But on the internet where people watch viral videos and clever ads by brands that utilize technologies like augmented reality this sort of 2 dimes a dozen advertizing does not fly and it actually insults the intelligence of even the most average internet user  
  2. The Frequency of the Ad
    While we can understand the eagerness of any brand to push their latest innovation, this is becoming very similar to what radio stations usually do when they are trying to push a hit onto the airwaves by hammering it all day long. Of course it's gonna get into the subconscious of a large number of people but it's also going to irritate and infuriate others to the point of hating the song or in this case the brand (I present exhibits A, B & C)

  3. The Choice of the Spokesperson
    Sensodyne Arabia chose to have both ads above to cover the native Arabic-speaking audience, alongside the large number of English speaking expats living in Dubai.
    1. The gentleman in the first ad  described as a practicing dentists without a name (isn't there some legal requirement for real names?) represents the majority of the foreign workforce in Dubai, but the problem with him as a spokesperson is that he sounds like a heavy smoker. A dentists that sounds like he smokes 5 packs a day is not someone I wish to take advice from, not to mention that he looks bored and just wants to finish filming the commercial.
    2. The female counterpart is for starters inexplicably overzealous. Furthermore as a native Arabic speaker (and by arabic, I mean both classical form and Lebanese dialect) she fails to deliver the message to me a potential client for the new product and a regular fan of the brand. Her performance leaves me too busy getting stuck on the way she uses certain words and more on the pronunciation. Perhaps other countries that do not have the same dialect as this lady were considered irrelevant by Sensodyne Arabia and we should just "suck it up princess" and appreciate the product.
  4. Ignoring Comments on Social Media
    It was almost a month between my initial rant on twitter and the one that took place today by others and triggered this post. In that span of time, Sensodyne Arabia who is supposedly on social media to be social (pardon my french) didn't even bother replying or inquiring about what would cause, not one but two (and more) previous advocates of the brand, to rant out and promise to never buy their product again. I think this takes me back to how relevant the brand considers us. 
So there you go Sensodyne a bigger rant, perhaps it can attract your attention on what we honestly felt was an ill conceived advertising campaign. And if it doesn't well...who cares? Certainly not you!


Exclusive Q&A with IDM-Cyberia CCO Bassam Jaber

IDM-Cyberia Biggest Private Lebanese ISP
The best thing about attending events like BDL Accelerate 2014 is that you get to bump into many of the tech leaders in the country. Although they are usually surrounded by the organizer who are trying to get them to meet other decisions makers during the event, I managed to get a quick and exclusive Q&A with Bassam Jaber CEO of Cyberia and CCO of the joint IDM-Cyberia operation (for the tiny percentile among you who didn't know this: yes, the two ISPs are now a single entity)

Here is the transcript of our short discussion:

Q: How long has it been since IDM-Cyberia have merged and when should we expect to see a new brand emerge from this deal?

A: It's been 2 years since we merged our operations, however we do not forsee in the near future the emergence of a new brand name to replace the two brands. The major reason is a regulatory one, as we are currently operating two different licenses and replacing those with a new license or acquiring a third license is a lengthy and difficult process.

Q: On digital and acceleration for startups, have you provided support, or would you be interested in supporting start-ups that might benefit from your position as Lebanon's largest ISP?

A: Definitely, if we see a good start-up that would benefit from our support we'd go for it.

Q: What can you disclose on future projects that IDM-Cyberia might be launching soon?

A: We are currently looking into IPTV and have considered launching such a project but it all depends on the regulatory hurdles we are facing. A lot of projects are still blocked with the regulator (The Ministry of Telecom) in the same manner we are struggling with bandwidth and speed.
Today our main mission and goal remain to work on speeding up the internet on a national level and providing the user with the necessary bandwidth and access.

Q: Final question: why aren't you as brand on social media?

A: We are currently focusing on improving our core services. We want to be able to help customers when they reach out to us on social media if we do join these channels. Currently many problems are out of our hands, and we need to fix the problems on the government entities side, otherwise we will be disappointing our fans and followers. 

As you see, even Lebanon's largest ISP seem to have their hands tied with so much red tape that they are very careful when exploring new ideas such as IPTV or even when considering joining the rest of us on social media. Will we see an end to this technical nightmare anytime soon?
Would someone fill my glass, it just seems so empty all the time.

BDL Accelerate 2014 Day Two

After a successful first day, BDL accelerate unraveled yesterday it's second line up of speakers, with a fiery morning where two panels Lebanon’s Ecosystem and Lebanon’s Investors stole the show. An all star line up was composed of names such as previous ministers Nicolas Sehanoui (telecom) and Marwan Kheireddine (state), who both happen to be successful businessmen not unlike co-panelist Maroun Chammas a serial entrepreneur with activities ranging from Oil and gas to telecom and or tech-activist Hala Fadel who started and chairs the MIT Enterprise Forum of the pan-Arab region along side other names.

Mike Butcher made sure that the usual Lebanese diplomacy in public speaking did not have its way as he hammered the panelists with direct questions, all the way to ousting the name of the person who most were hinting at when discussing hurdles that prevent Lebanon from having decent internet access. For obvious reasons I shall refrain from naming anyone as well, and play along the Harry Potter theme of "the one that shall not be named".

Other panels and speakers of the day provided interesting glimpses and insights into their respective experiences such as being an expat entrepreneur or their assessment of the benefits of being an entrepreneur in the USA.

The event culminated in the announcement of the winner of the Start-up Competition out of the eight finalists chosen on day one.

With So7ati and Presella walking away as runners up, the winner after 15 minutes of jury deliberations was Ki an interactive password manager with proximity features.

One cannot but applaud the huge effort that has gone into organizing this event which, I must remind everyone, offered free access to the large numbers of participants that were eager to learn more about the BDL initiative and looked to learn from the experiences of participating speakers.


BDL Accelerate 2014 Day One

People standing in line outside the building
After the huge build-up until today's event, we were all psyched to see if this event will live up to our expectation and the associated hype. With a set of successful speakers in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, from Lebanon and abroad announced, there was a huge turnout, to the point where we started the day by queuing for over half an hour to make it to the registration booth.

This led many people including myself to take it to twitter to express frustration or to let others know they were in for a wait.
One tweet I found particularly amusing was by @farrahberrou

One has to mention however the excellent catering services, where people waiting in line, even outside the building, were being served beverages and snacks by very courteous dedicated staff.

Fast forward past this little hiccup, the set-up inside was what you would expect from an event of this magnitude, with the various start-ups spread across the floor showcasing their ideas and products.

In another corner the Lebanese banks that support the Banque Du Liban circular 331 had set-up shop and welcomed the public near the Workshop Area, where various sessions were taking place throughout the day, simultaneously with the big event.

A SelfiesBox picture with Friend & Fellow Blogger
Chadi AbouNohra from Tech Ticker
One has to mention the SelfiesBox stand which was undeniably the most visited for obvious reasons, up until the icecream stand started serving free treats.

The main event itself saw the opening ceremony hosting 4 key speakers including Mr Riad Salameh the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Mr Francois Bassil the Chairman of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, Mr Mohamed Choucair the Chairman of the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture in Lebanon and last but not least the socially active and always flamboyant Mr Tom Fletcher, the Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Lebanon who delivered a very up-beat speech (when is he not so?) about his faith in Lebanon's future prospects (you're on for that 2020 bet Mr Ambassador).

The rest of the day's agenda saw various successful and upcoming entrepreneurs share their thoughts, their struggles and also their drive towards what makes an entrepreneur succeed. The panels were quite eclectic and something every wannabe entrepreneur should attend.

The first day wrapped up with a selection of 8 finalist from the original 28 startups that competed for the “Lightning Round – Startup Competition. The ones that made it through are:

Cardio Diagnostic, Saily, Yellow, Ki, Presella, GoEjaza, Feedeed, Tari2ak

Not entirely what I would have chosen but the "people" have spoken and this was their selection.

For those of you who missed this first day, you can still make up for this by hurrying up tomorrow to catch the final day of what has been so far an event that should become a recurrence in our local business scene.

PS: I hope there will be a power outlet at the press table for tomorrow and a stable accessible wifi connection


BDL Accelerate 2014

I am not an entrepreneur, I don't like being called one and I am very allergic to the unjustified hype that has been pumped up about this topic in recent years.
I am however a 16-year veteran in digital, a business owner, and a professional that has been involved in various ventures that brought to light many services for the corporate and start-up ecosystems, and I know a good opportunity when I see one. The BDL Accelerate 2014 is it!

With Banque Du Liban putting its weight behind this year's Accelerate International Startup Conference on November 20th & 21st, you are set to connect with an array of expert stakeholders who will be attending this exclusive invite-only event.
The right mix of local and international participants from the various corners of the professional world includes 50+ names and spans into several industries, allowing each participant to find the right beacon that will lead them to their desired outcome.

A window towards a $500,000 USD investment opportunity will be the cherry on the cake through the participation in the Seedstars World International Startup Competition.

Perhaps, my assumptions that not everyone can be an entrepreneur are flawed, like several of my colleagues point out, but what better way to know if you have what it takes to be the next big start-up than by applying for an invitation to attend Lebanon’s 1st International Startup Conference?

Looking forward to meeting you all there during the conference days!

BDL Accelerate official Website


User Data Compromised on Alfa Portal

It has been several months, if not well over a year since I logged into my account on www.alfa.com.lb, the official site of Alfa (managed by Orascum) one of the two local mobile providers.

I was curious today to check some parts of the portal, and as I logged in and was redirected to my own account info, I discovered, to my amazement, that although my password had remained unchanged, and my mobile number was still associated with my username "patrick", the entire profile was wrong and showed someone else's info.

I have to give you a brief background on why this is important for me. Back in my early career in the year 2000 (read it like Conan O'Brien would) I was the lead developer with Cellis -France Telecom when the portal was created under the name Plugged.
I also was the lead on the portal re-branding into what was the basis of its current form heading the Web Development in the company until the time I left in 2011 when I started my own venture Sharp Lemon.

My username had been coveted several times in the past, maybe for its simplicity, but I only used to get "password reset" requests, until those requests stopped and I figured that, most likely, no one is sending Web-to-SMS anymore, and perhaps Alfa have implemented a stringent login process since then.

My discovery below surprised and worried me for one major reason:
I know, from first hand experience with the Bureau of Electronic Crime, that SMS sent from the Alfa portal make the account holder liable for the info sent from it, in cases of breach of law (harassment, threats or any illegal activity). So, imagine the implication if someone had access to your Alfa account. It also meant they could see vital information regarding your phone calls and other activities.

I personally believe the portal suffers or has suffered from a serious vulnerability, that has allowed someone to modify profile information, without accessing passwords, which were according to my knowledge hashed in the database.
The other, more benign, alternative is that during some internal data migration, Alfa have really messed up some data sets and people's profile info ended up associated other persons' accounts.

I have since updated my info, although I cannot seem to find a link to where I can update my password. It's either dug in so deep or someone has considered that changing a password is a feature not really necessary for a site of this caliber.

Either way, this is an alarming incident for me and I invite you if you have used or are still using the alfa's portal to check your account and let me know in the comments if you have faced similar incidents.

Too bad Alfa, just when I was starting to think you had gotten your act together again finally!