|TBWA\RAAD Beirut, LEBANON
|Online: Fiction & Non-Fiction
TBWA\RAAD Beirut, LEBANON
G. NAHAS FILMS Beirut, LEBANON
Why is this work relevant for Entertainment?
The sound of shisha social experiment shined a new light on a health crisis previously overlooked in Lebanon - shisha smoking and its relationship to throat cancer.
In partnership with the American University of Beirut Medical Center we surprised shisha smokers, in an unexpected and creative way, in the middle of their puffing. We turned their beloved shisha into a practical joke to deliver a powerful message they could no longer ignore.
The video, as entertaining as shocking, spread like wildfire on social media, winning over the public opinion with TV channels, bloggers and celebrities starting to advocate the cause.
Lebanon, a country smoking its way to cancer
In recent years, Lebanon has been ranked third globally for having the most smokers per capita, propelling this tiny country into the top 10 countries when it comes to smoking-related cancer. The Lebanese government has failed to enforce a smoking ban in public places and has received a violent backlash from the hospitality industry, which has pressured politicians to overlook this health crisis.
Shisha is not “really” smoking
While people in Lebanon have come to recognize the dangers of smoking, shisha is ironically seen as an exception. People even mention shisha as a healthier alternative, wrongly believing that this fun, flavoured and water-based social activity is not harmful to their health.
For World Cancer Day, AUBMC was looking to take on the fight against shisha smoking and shine the light on a lesser-known cancer that’s directly related to shisha smoking: throat cancer.
Describe the creative idea.
We knew that attacking shisha with generic cancer propaganda was not the right approach to change behaviour amongst Lebanese people. We needed to find a creative way to get their attention and demonstrate the long-term consequences of shisha smoking.
Immersion vs. Intervention
Instead of going on TV with an alarming message, we decided to get shisha smokers to experience first-hand what throat cancer feels like. So, we decided to give people a taste of cancer by conducting a social experiment at the place where it all begins, a shisha café in Beirut.
Using the “poison” to teach the lesson
To put the final nail in the coffin, we decided to use the shisha itself as a device to help bring our message home and get people to directly question their behaviour while puffing on the poison, reminding them that they are the ones playing with the shisha Russian roulette.
Describe the strategy
We knew that our task wouldn’t be easy, not only because shisha is seen as a staple of Lebanese culture but also because of the cultural sensitivity surrounding the word cancer.
Cancer, a difficult conversation to have in the Middle East
In Lebanon there has always been a taboo around cancer and people avoid having an open conversation about it in social settings. People still believe that discussing it openly is inviting the disease into their home. Not only do people avoid the talk about cancer, they even avoid uttering the name, literally calling it “the other disease” (”haydak al marad” in the Arabic language).
Beyond words, we needed to demonstrate the risk of shisha smoking by getting people all choked up in order for them to start protecting their throats and take this issue seriously.
Describe the execution
Hooking our audiences up with a practical joke
To grab people’s attention during our social experiment and hook the audience online for them to continue watching, we started our stunt by adding an extra ingredient to the regular shisha. Before being served at the café, the shishas were filled with a harmless amount of helium—harmless to the health, but with a direct impact on the sound of the participant’s voice. At first, participants took it lightly, having fun with their transformed voices, but then this happened:
Revealing the true sound of shisha by giving a voice to the survivors
To conclude our social experiment, the café waiter brought an important video-message to the smokers. Not a message from a doctor, but the testimony of a throat cancer survivor who walked the cancer walk but could barely talk the talk because of it: we revealed the true sound of shisha.
Describe the outcome
A campaign that spread like wildfire on social media
After uploading our stunt video on social media, our campaign went viral within minutes.
Despite the fact that we were not allowed to push our content on Facebook because of regulations around promoting smoking, our video was shared more than 23.9 K times, generating 11.4 K comments and ultimately reaching over 1 million organic views within the first 24 hours.
Causing a national debate in Lebanon
Beyond the impressive number of views and shares on social media, our video started a real debate in Lebanon. TV channels like MTV Lebanon picked up on our social experiment, inviting doctors to highlight the relatively greater harm of smoking shisha compared to cigarettes. Ultimately, the real sound of shisha couldn’t be ignored anymore by politicians, as bloggers and Lebanese celebrities joined the public, adding their voices and volunteering to be advocates for the cause.
|Chief Creative Officer
|Regional Creative Director
|Tracy El Houeiss
|Corporate Communications Director
|Art Director ACD
|Motion Graphics Designer
|Head of Strategy
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