One of the most prominent figures behind the scenes of the Arab media, Antoine Choueiri, passed away last week. With his high level of professionalism, Choueiri was the Caesar of the advertising industry in the region, and he managed to strengthen major advertising companies that would have been doomed to failure without his assistance.
Despite his success, the sad fact is that Antoine Choueiri was the victim of baseless rumors and stories. His image was unfairly distorted due to people circulating baseless rumors and fabrications either out of sheer ignorance, failure, or competition. The first time that I met Antoine Choueiri was during a meeting of major advertising companies in the late 1980s. This meeting was called by former Asharq Al-Awsat publisher Hisham Hafiz. Since the Asharq Al-Awsat group is the largest and strongest in the newspaper and magazine market, it was natural that it would also affect the advertising industry. The role of advertising is crucially important in the success or failure of the press, which is to say that the media corporations that are based on correct commercial foundation are far more successful than corporations that are run by individuals or the state and which soon vanish either because of a lack of financing or due to competition.
Choueiri, the owner of the largest advertising corporation [in the region], was the man who most wanted to see market expansion. His idea was to promote advertisement as being beneficial to the media, and he advised maximizing advertisement revenue in order to enable the Arabs to operate larger media operations. This was a convincing call, however this collapsed as a result of unregulated competition and suspicion that he was dominating the market. He repeated this same idea – but on a larger scale – 5 years ago, within the framework of the cooperation called for by Chairman of the MBC Board of Directors Walid al-Ibrahim. Choueiri called for the largest television and print media companies to unify in one market that would result in a market share of 5 or perhaps even 10 billion dollars. The aim of this was to carry out a revolution that benefits all media in the region and corrects a disadvantageous situation, as until today the Arab media industry remains the smallest in terms of advertisement revenue. Despite its rapid expansion and its huge commercial output, the Arab media’s advertisement revenue stream is smaller than that of the African media industry.
Choueiri was familiar with the details of the Arab market and had outlined a clear vision for the future. Without strong financing from advertisement it is impossible for the media to be strong and effective and Choueiri believed that the antagonism over advertising was caused by ignorance and greed. He believed that the newspapers, television channels, and other media were fighting over crumbs when the Arab media – according to international media standards – deserved much more. However the chaos and backwardness of the Arab market resulted in Choueiri’s project failing despite its necessity for the Arab media, which is today witnessing amazing expansion and development on all levels. Therefore instead of success we witnessed sustained campaigns slandering Choueiri’s image, and many people who did not know him or have any dealings with him began to believe these rumors. However according to my own experience, knowledge, and dealings with Antoine Choueiri, I can only describe him as one of the greatest men to support the Arab media, and one of the most truthful and honest men I have ever met, most importantly he was a visionary and he adopted a strategic vision that is to the benefit of us all.
There has been much slander and false rumors in the Arab media, to the extent that this has killed off talent, buried opportunities, and brought in figures that have no concept of professionalism.