MANGOJAM STUDIO FZ LLC Dubai, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
IMPACT BBDO Beirut, LEBANON
Why is this work relevant for Creative Strategy?
As Lebanon was going through compounding crises, with necessities getting scarcer every day, the government menaced to cancel a decisive parliamentary election due to an absurd reason: a shortage of paper and ink necessary to print election ballots.
In an intentional strategic approach to the challenge, An-Nahar, Lebanon’s leading newspaper, decided not to print its February 2nd edition. Instead, the unused paper and ink was sent towards the printing of ballots. Benefitting from limited resources, An-Nahar’s creative take on the problem would generate the country’s new symbol of democracy: empty newsstands that speak louder than words.
Lebanon, pushed past the brink of collapse, is suffering from a historically high inflation that has thrown 75% of its population under the poverty line. Necessities such as food, petrol, medicine and even ink and paper are scarcer every day. Lebanon’s predicament is largely attributed to a political class that has dominated parliamentary elections since the 1990s. A nation in pain hangs on to the frail hope that the upcoming election will bring critical stability and pave the way towards real change.
In an outrageous and blatant attempt to obstruct the election, officials have complained that shortages of paper and ink needed to print ballots, could cancel the upcoming elections. An-Nahar had a historical role in protecting the sanctity of free speech and Lebanon’s fragile democracy. As the newspaper strived to stay true to its essence, it was imperative to prevent the sabotaging of a decisive and long-awaited election.
The Interpretation of the Challenge (30% of vote)
In Lebanon, the news media always had a pivotal role in key political milestones, and a responsibility that goes far beyond news reporting. An-Nahar has historically been at the forefront of it all, striving to protect the sanctity of free speech and the country’s fragile democracy. The newspaper, which had received multiple threats to be forcibly shut down during its 88 years of existence, had even made the ultimate sacrifice for free press to subsist.
Once the number one newspaper across the country, its circulation had been steadily declining. In the wake of the crisis, An-Nahar aspired to regain all its relevance by staying true to its essence and standing up for what it believes in. An-Nahar could not simply publish about the shortage of paper and ink, it needed an effective approach to prevent the sabotaging of a decisive and long-awaited election.
The Insight / Breakthrough Thinking (30% of vote)
When word of a shortage of paper and ink got out, An-Nahar investigated the issue to uncover the truth. An-Nahar’s findings would confirm the reality of a shortage, as well as the government’s convenient and intentional inaction about it. An-Nahar, with a responsibility to protect democratic rights, was determined to deliver a solution.
So we started deconstructing the problem. A shortage of paper and ink was hindering our democracy during one of Lebanon’s most critical crises. Paper and ink were what our country needed to maintain the election. To channel people’s pain, anger and resentment into representation and positive change. To quash the government’s excuse to silence people’s voices. We spotted an unmissable opportunity: donate our paper and ink to secure election provisions. We would go paperless so the people can remain voiceful. We would not save ink and paper, we would save democracy.
The Creative Idea (20% of vote)
An-Nahar went silent for the first time in its 88 years of existence. On February 2nd, trucks delivered the days’ entire supply of paper and ink to the government’s printing associate, to secure the printing of voting ballots.
With this move, An-Nahar would send the Lebanese government a powerful message, that none of their excuses would take away the decisive election.
On February 1st, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief announced a special election issue, coming out the next day.
But that special election issue was never printed. Instead, people walked to the newsstands to find empty racks displaying a single message: The ink and paper intended for today’s edition has been sent towards the printing of voting ballots for the 2022 election. A QR code directed people to the online version of the newspaper, which explained the cause behind the issue that never went to print.
The Outcome / Results (20% of vote)
The non-existent edition went viral with people supporting the movement on social media and taking part in their own way to safeguard the election. In a symbolic show of support for an entire nation’s cause, people made donations of paper, books, and magazines to the government. Lebanese magazines and press companies also joined the movement by donating printing provisions.
The campaign was heavily covered locally by political shows, top broadcast channels and competing newspapers. Even election candidates joined in, offering support for the movement.
The online edition that day became the highest-read in AnNahar's history.
Enough paper and ink has been donated from this movement to print ballots for the entire voting population of Lebanon. As of now, the Lebanese elections are scheduled to go ahead as planned. And the government has stopped mentioning the shortage of paper and ink to print ballots.
Please tell us how the brand purpose inspired the work
Since the last parliamentary elections in 2018, Lebanon has undergone compounding crises: a revolution, a devastating economic collapse, a mismanaged pandemic, and an explosion that killed hundreds. All fingers point at unrelenting corruption, poor governance and impunity.
Lebanon’s physically and emotionally scarred citizens feel governed against their will, held hostage by a system they can no longer condone. The upcoming 2022 election embodies the only faint hope to regain some control over their lives and channel their pain, resentment and anger into representation for a viable path towards real change.
An-Nahar has been the voice of the people since 1933 and has had a pivotal role in the key periods of Lebanon’s history. And so, An-Nahar would do everything in its power to prevent the sabotaging of a long-awaited and rightful electoral process.