Winter 2007 Vol. V, No. 2
A Brand New Approach
In the seemingly greedy, superficial, bottom-line obsessed
advertising world, Miriam Mira Kaddouras success may
be a bit of a puzzle. She is too young, too honest, and too sensitive
to be an accomplished businesswoman and shrewd advertiser. Her dossier
of campaigns with the prestigious Global Ad Agency Wieden + Kennedy, however,
proves otherwise. Kaddouras art direction for the recent I
Feel Pretty campaign featuring tennis legend Maria Sharapova and
last years Nike Real Women campaign challenge the idea
that successful advertising sells shallowness. Even the behind the scenes
story for these projects goes against the grain, showing that the best
campaigns dont always come from millions of dollars.
Miriam Kaddoura (BA 00) has the graceful friendliness of someone
who could feel comfortable anywhere and in any situation, and indeed its
hard to find a situation where she hasnt met with success. Born
in Egypt, Kaddoura spent her adolescent years in Canada. Half way through
middle school, she had to readjust again when her family moved to Beirut.
After graduating from AUB with a degree in Graphic Design, Kaddoura took
a chance, left her friends and family, and moved once again, this time
to Richmond, Virginia. She completed her masters at the Virginia
Commonwealth Adcenter and has been working as an art director at Wieden
+ Kennedy for the last four years, a brief time to have so distinguished
Throughout these many transitions, Kaddouras ability and passion
for connecting with people has given her strength in her personal life
and proves to be what makes her professional work stand out.
With a sociologist mother and a surgeon for a father, travel was bound
to be part of Kaddouras childhood, but that did not make it easy.
When most people were fleeing from Lebanon, my family moved in the
opposite direction. My father went to live in Beirut in 1987 due to the
shortage of doctors there. My mom joined him with me and my brothers in
December of 1989. The move was stressful for Kaddoura, and not only
because of the politics and violence. I was a middle schooler. I
had a junior prom coming, a clique of friends, a crushI was devastated!
She confesses that she was only able to stay devastated for a matter of
months after moving to Beirut. No one was mean to me, she
explains, succinctly. And that was rare for middle school.
In Beirut, Kaddoura found a free and open environment for young people.
There was no cocoon. We could stay out late with our friends and
our parents didnt worry about us or give us strict curfews. That
wasnt true in Canada, she says. This luxury of safety was
based on the tightness of the Beirut community. With that security went
a civic responsibility and Kaddoura had first-hand experience in that
as well. During the last year of the war, she and her family would provide
assistance, in the form of food, medical attention, or just company, to
their neighbors, whatever their religious or ethnic description. We
just helped out when people were in trouble, Kaddoura says. If
thats not tolerance, I dont know what is. Despite her
many homelands, Kaddoura says she has felt Lebanese ever since moving
Perhaps it is not surprising, given these beginnings, that Kaddouras
original intent was to be a doctor like her father. It was actually
my father who convinced me not to go into medicine, she remembers.
He brought in two female doctors to tell me how you give up so much
of your life and all of your free time to this stressful profession.
Kaddoura took this warning to heart and pursued many of her other interests,
graduating in with a degree in Graphic Design. Studying this field at
AUB allowed Kaddoura to explore various mediums and develop her creative
mind. She even revived her interest in dance for her final senior project.
While advertising and surgery may seem vastly different career paths,
Kaddouras creative mind easily bridges the gap. In both professions,
people come to you with a problem and its up to you to figure out
a solution. Doctors have patients, I have clients, but we both just do
what we can to help. The thing I do most is come up with ideas.
Kaddouras ideas are good too. They take the analogy between doctors
and advertisers one step further, exemplifying how an advertisement can
actually help and inspire a consumer while pleasing the client. The Real
Women campaign for Nike that featured testimonials from women talking
about their imperfect bodies truly challenged the standards
of female beauty. The novelty of hearing a woman speaking with pride about
her wide and muscular shoulders, her thunder-thighs, or her
tomboy knees was arresting and made the Real Women campaign
an award-winning and celebrated one.
The project becomes even more impressive when Kaddoura explains what went
on behind the scenes. We only had the budget for a print campaign
and some web advertising. No budget for TV spots. But we had an idea for
web-films and we had some video equipment and just really wanted to make
them. The women in the films were just some friends from workactual,
real women. We were just going to post the films on the web. Then Diane
Sawyer on Good Morning America, CNN, Access Hollywood...picked them up
and everyone got interested. Thus, the ad campaign that debunked
unhealthy ideals of beauty also debunks the idea that good marketing comes
from multi-million dollar contracts. What counts most is what Kaddoura
does so well: coming up with the ideas.
This effort to enfranchise people and make them proud of something is
truly a characteristic of Kaddouras work. If I can make people
see something differentespecially about themselvesIm
happy. I know that Ive connected with someone. Another well-known
campaign of Kaddouras, entitled I Feel Pretty, stars
the tennis legend Maria Sharapova. Kaddoura explains the project as being
about the duality of being pretty and kicking ass at your job.
Again, the message not only sells a product but sends out a positive and
all too infrequently heard message to the consumer.
Kaddoura attributes much of her success and inspiration to her familys
support. At the end of the lecture I gave at AUB last year, a student
asked me how I was able to just pick up and move to Virginia and leave
everyone I knew behind, Kaddoura remembers. The question kind
of surprised me, because I never felt like I left the people who mattered.
It was hard, of course, and really lonely, but I knew that my family would
always support me. I think Ive become even closer to them because
of that distance. It taught us to trust each other.
With so much success at such a young age, does Kaddoura feel that she
has fallen into the trap that her fathers colleagues tried to warn
her away from so many years ago? Kaddoura admits that her career eats
into her free time, but she is quick to acknowledge the luck she has had
and the advantages that her job affords; the opportunities for travel
and the variety of projects she works on keep her stimulated. Looking
into the future, Kaddoura fantasizes about having more time to work on
her own art projects, especially to explore installation art, a new and
exciting area for her. Given what she has done for the field of advertising,
it will be exciting for the rest of us to see how she redefines other