A Creative Tour de Force: Philippe Skaff - Beirut, Lebanon

Philippe Skaff, 49, is the chief executive and chief creative officer at Grey Worldwide Middle East and North Africa Network.

Skaff launched the Grey Advertising Middle East network in the late 80s. It now has offices stretching from Casablanca to the Persian Gulf. The network is the most highly awarded in the region, claiming international accolades as well as more than 21 Phenix Awards, considered among the region's most prestigious, for clients including Bacardi, P&G, Union Carbide, Hitachi, BAT, Burger King and BP.

- Where do you live?


- Describe a perfect day with guests in your city

You can make whatever you want of a day in Beirut. Throw in a bit of Paris, mix in some Tehran, a splash of Cairo and add a dash of Rome for good measure. A bit of snow, a bit of beach. A feast of history, aperitifs in an atmospheric bar and then dinner - any cuisine you fancy. Cigars, live music and apple tobacco at a shisha club to follow. If you still have the energy, go clubbing.

- Tell us where you've chosen to be photographed and why

Martyrs' Square, the city's historic centre and the nation's emotional heart. Destroyed during the civil war, it is now contemporary and vibrant, cosmopolitan yet classic. Twelve martyrs were executed here when Lebanon gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1916. Almost 90 years later, it provided the launch pad for Beirut's spring of liberation in 2005, when one-and-a-half million Lebanese claimed and won their freedom.

- Tell us about the ad you've chosen to feature on this page

The 15th Asian Games, to be held in Doha in December, will be the biggest global sporting event after the Olympics. The opener for the campaign had to be big and it had to represent Asia. It involved elephants, tigers, dragons and fish, China, India, Thailand and then Paris, and was created within two months. We needed to generate a buzz among three billion people with diverse languages and cultures. The torch was an instantly recognisable symbol of the games and the legendary beasts of Asia embodied the virtues of the athletes.

- List the three most inspiring things about your city

Culture, freedom, diversity.

- Give us a quote that encapsulates your city

I love the slogan from a 1981 travel agency poster: "Beirut - a city that will never surrender." It still resonates.

- Tell us a perfect place to brainstorm in your city

A waterfront restaurant called Chez Sami.

- and to celebrate an account win

BO18: it's underground in both senses of the word and stays open until 9am.

- to entertain a client

In the conference room.

- to kit yourself out

With cigars - duty free, my cellar, my office, my travel bag.

- to go for a run

It depends what you're running from.

- How do you unwind?

By spending time with my seven-year-old son.

- What is your greatest extravagance?

Cigars, cigars and more cigars.

- Name one thing about yourself that might surprise others

I am an incurable romantic. I'm the chief executive in a global agency network. I don't look the part for either.

- If you were an ad, what would your strapline be?

Expect the unexpected.

- Finally, tell us the best way to ask for a pay rise in your country

Offer a cigar, perhaps.


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