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Cannes Lions 2024 – The Creative Voice: Using Advertising to Create Social Change

AnNahar and IMPACT BBDO Discuss a Legacy of Outstanding Advertising

The Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity often showcases advertising’s power to build brands and fulfill business objectives. However, Thursday morning’s session, “A Time To End Our Fear”, tells how AnNahar, Lebanon’s leading newspaper, used advertising to create social change. Dani Richa, Chairman of BBDO EMEA, and Nayla Tueni, Editor-in-Chief of AnNahar highlighted 5 years of the newspaper’s advertising. 

The Blank Edition

The partnership between IMPACT BBDO and AnNahar began in 2018, amidst a time of political unrest in Lebanon. The country had been without a government for 6 months. The political parties were at a standstill–using the media to point fingers and make excuses. AnNahar was fed up with printing the lies of politicians, so they decided to take a stand. “The Blank Edition”, featured AnNahar printing an empty copy of their newspaper, along with a blank website and social media page. The project sparked a movement across Lebanon, as citizens filled the empty pages with their message to the politicians of Lebanon.

A New National Anthem

A year later, Lebanon Suffered a major currency devaluation, sparking protests in the streets of the country. During the protests, the women of Lebanon were at the frontlines of the movement, singing the country’s National Anthem. However, AnNahar was deeply grieved as the women sang an anthem that only mentioned men. So they took action–printing new lyrics of the Lebanese National Anthem, that included women. The words, “The birthplace of women and men”, were printed in bold letters on the front pages of AnNahar’s daily edition, sparking a revolution. This movement resulted in a cabinet with 400% more women and the first-ever female minister of defence. The new cabinet went on to submit a bill to change the national anthem forever.

The Elections Edition

When Lebanon continued to endure economic devastation, the upcoming 2022 elections provided the possibility for change. However, in a bid to keep their power, politicians planned to delay the election–claiming that they lacked paper and ink. AnNahar responded to the excuses with a tongue-in-cheek political stunt. They left the daily edition unprinted and donated the paper and ink to the Lebanese government. This action stated boldly that the elections must go on. Many other organizations followed suit, donating supplies and urging the government to keep their promises. On May 15th, the elections took place as scheduled, and moved the country forward in their democratic traditions.

Newspapers Inside the Newspaper

Lebanon has a history of silencing the press. In 2005, Gebran Tueni, the Editor-in-chief of AnNahar and Nayla Tueni’s father, was assassinated for his support of free speech and social progression. In 2023, to honour his death and support his life’s work, AnNahar released a special edition of the newspaper. “Newspapers Inside the Newspaper” featured a version of the publication that contained the content of 6 recently closed newspapers. The edition used the logo, format, and writers of these publications to voice AnNahar’s support of free speech. Although the newspapers were former competitors, Gebran Tueni always supported the cause of democracy and free speech no matter the publication.

AI President

In 2024, Lebanon experienced a long-term presidential vacancy. The vacancy was due to the personal biases and agendas of the country’s politicians. In response to this, AnNahar created the world’s first AI President. An AI was trained on AnNahar’s 91-year-old archive. The AI president allowed Lebanese citizens to seek answers to the country’s greatest political problems. Lebanon’s politicians even included the AI in an official cabinet meeting. The AI is “the only president who can’t be biased, Indecisive, self-serving or influenced by political agendas”, creating a statement on the political corruption in Lebanon. 

AnNahar’s series of works show how advertisers can use creativity for positive change. Dani Richa explained the significance of BBDO and AnNahar’s relationship, “The power of creativity with the weight of journalism–the combined effect is very powerful”. However, this principle also applies to all advertisers. With the power of creative thinking, agencies and clients can work together to create massive social reform. Richa shares that the key to creating great work with a client is “having access to the decision-makers, quick approvals, no back and forth. Trust between [the] partnership.” The work created by AnNahar and IMPACT BBDO is an inspiring model for agencies have a lasting impact on society.

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