On August 4, 2020, Beirut exploded.
A day etched in the Lebanese people’s hearts to this day. With no answers and justice yet to be served, MTV Lebanon, a leading television channel, wanted to remind the people that they deserved justice for their loved ones.
With #WeAreUnbreakable, we created portraits of victims with shattered glass & utilized them as an innovative medium that moved people to not sit quiet until they got answers. It not only commemorated the victims of the horrific event, but also brought out the fire in people’s hearts that pushed the government to take accountability.
Beirut’s port was hit by of the one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history, resulting in over 200 deaths, 700 injuries, and the displacement of thousands of families. An unimaginably cataclysmic tragedy, even with the countless revolutions and wars the country has seen.
A year after the explosion, the resilient people of the country, who have witnessed more traumatic events than the average person, were still desperately waiting for answers on who was responsible. MTV Lebanon, a leading news, and television channel had also been trying to shed light on the unknown and question the authorities.
The people were promised answers five days after the explosion. One year later, with no answers from the government, the Lebanese people were losing hope and going into a state of learned helplessness.
With a resilient yet hopeless people, MTV Lebanon wanted to remind them that they still deserved answers and justice.
Describe the creative idea / insights (30% of vote)
As a country that has seen the worst time and time again, Lebanese people are known to be highly resilient. Many different campaigns were created to clean up and restore their city from rubble and shattered glass; it had become another case of the famous local expression “May it be remembered, but not repeated” ("تنذكر وما تنعاد").
However, the government has been putting many efforts to evade an investigation. The investigating judge was deposed from his position. The prevailing sentiment was that people will gradually rebuild their lives and forget.
People’s resilience was taken as their weakness. This is what became our inflection point.
We decided to showcase their unwavering spirit as a shield of strength that shouts out loudly that they’ve had enough.
If over 7,000 tons of glass were shattered and the government was still silent, then we decided to break the silence by breaking even more glass.
Describe the strategy (20% of vote)
The Lebanese people had many questions: why were dangerous chemicals kept at the port? Who could take responsibility?
For an event that made Lebanese hearts roar with agony, the coverage of the occasion was surprisingly quite silent. Most other news channels and mediums in the country only planned on giving a long and “impactful” speech from some news reporter or broadcaster condemning the government, with some indication that the truth will one day come out. Naturally, such speeches had no call to action whatsoever and would most probably be forgotten within the next two days.
We wanted to break this silence, and this could only be done with something powerful & unforgettable. It was important to jolt people out of their state of hopelessness and do something that pushes them to demand the answers, while at the same time recognizes their spirit of resilience.
Describe the execution (20% of vote)
MTV created #WeAreUnbreakable – a campaign that depicted portraits of victims in shattered glass. A tribute to the people’s resilience and a loud and clear scream for truth.
We collaborated with Simon Berger, the only artist globally to make portraits out of glass. Upon their completion, a video was released showing glass being broken and revealing some of the portraits; it was also accompanied by a voiceover with a message that the truth will never be broken.
The portraits were then posted outdoors in front of the site of the explosion and were featured in MTV’s leading talk show “Sar Al Wa’et”/”Now Is The Time” ("صار الوقت"), which also featured the martyrs’ families who emotionally recalled their tragic losses: how a mother buried her child, how a father never got to say his last goodbye.
Stories that were enough to reignite the sense of justice in people’s hearts.
List the results (30% of vote)
Breaking glass proved to be immensely successful; the campaign and the portraits had a significant impact on the Lebanese people.
The broadcast became the highest-rated episode of “Sar Al Wa’et”, yielding 30.64% of TV share, the highest in the entire summer period. The show also had over 2,250 mentions after the launch of the campaign (Source: Brandwatch)
The campaign made its mark on social media. One tweet showing the parents of Alexandra Najjar, the explosion’s youngest victim, viewing her portrait went viral, garnering over 500 retweets and 2,000 likes.
The campaign was also successful in re-igniting people’s need for accountability: protestors filled the streets demanding answers and seeking justice.
Surprisingly, accountability for corrupt actions was being taken, a first in Lebanese history. Arrest warrants were issued by a judge for high-ranking officials, including a prime minister, two ministers, the port’s GM, and high-ranking militaries.
Justice, at last.
Please tell us how the brand purpose inspired the work
News mediums are expected to be unbiased and neutral, aiming to provide the people with information on current events. MTV Lebanon has been different since the start. It has displayed a fervent commitment to acting as the fourth power, disclosing the untold about the abuses of power and corruption.
When the explosion hit, MTV Lebanon was as done with the corrupt government as the people were, even going to the extent of publicly shaming and spitting on the name of the president. A first for a news channel. They were certainly not planning on staying silent for the explosion’s first anniversary.
Standing by its motto of being the ‘voice of freedom’, MTV took upon its shoulders to encourage the people of Lebanon to continue their fight for justice and the answers that they deserved. With the #WeAreUnbreakable campaign, MTV stood united with the people, saluting their spirit and demanding justice.