Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

Stop the Press! How Newspaper AnNahar Stopped Printing to Fight for Lebanon’s Elections

Advertising Agency
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
For the first time in nearly 90 years the publication ceased print so it could donate a day’s worth of ink and paper to polling stations ahead of a vital election

The second of February was the first time in Lebanese newspaper AnNahar’s 88-year history that it did not print. This was not due to any sort of technical fault or a shortage of equipment, but instead was a deliberate and bold action. This year the country will be heading to the polls for the National Election in May. But, in an attempt to discourage voting, the current government have complained of a shortage of paper and ink which could cancel the election day. 

So, national newspaper AnNahar and Impact BBDO stepped in and made their own statement. For many Lebanese people, the newspaper is a part of their daily routine and it often provokes discussion, so to not see it on newsstands one day was bound to arouse interest. Empty newsstands directed consumers to the publication’s website where they were able to read about why and how the print was stopped for the day.

The ink and paper that would have gone to that day’s newspaper was donated to voting ballots, with the paper’s editor-in-chief Nayla Tueni saying: “We’ve been hearing that there is not enough ink and paper to proceed with the elections for a while now. Well, that is no longer an issue. The resources we saved by not printing for one day provided a truckload of paper and ink to support the upcoming elections. There are no more excuses. The elections are happening, no matter what.” 

To hear more about the importance of the 2022 election in Lebanon and how this act has sparked a bigger conversation around what help can be provided to ensure it takes place, LBB’s Natasha Patel caught up with the Impact BBDO teams to hear more. 

LBBB> Tell us about the original idea that started this campaign?

Ali Rez, regional ECD at Impact BBDO MENAP> As the cliché goes: good ideas can originate anywhere. This one took birth during a random morning conversation in an elevator going up to work. 

Our business unit lead Jad El Rabahi had just returned from Beirut and was lamenting the fact that Lebanon was running out of everything – he mentioned that the situation is so bad that a government official on a political show threatened that the upcoming elections may not happen due to shortage of paper and ink meant for ballots. We had recently been briefed to come up with an idea for AnNahar related to the elections, and suddenly everything fell into place. The idea that we extrapolated was elementary: donate the paper and ink from an unprinted daily edition.

LBB> Talk us through the logistics of the project, how big a task was it to not publish for one day?

Emile Tabanji, managing director at Impact BBDO Beirut> Technically, it’s such an easy task not to print… but also the hardest as this is the first time EVER that the newspaper electively decides to do so, as it’s the newspaper’s duty and role to transmit the daily voice of the people in the print format, something that has been happening for the past 88 years. 

But the voice of the people is at risk and rumours are that the elections may not happen, so AnNahar decided to lead a movement to ensure that the elections happen and too the initiative to donate its paper & ink as there is no real change without elections. It was a shock for the people and the shop owners not to see the landmark newspaper on the shelves and racks, but the news was accessible to everyone online as its equally important to still get the news across. Every big cause requires a sacrifice and ours was not to print that day.


LBB> What impact has this campaign had overall on the election?

Joe Abou Khaled, regional ECD at Impact BBDO Beirut> The main objective of the campaign is to stress on the necessity of making the Lebanese parliamentary elections happen on time, and as per schedule on 15 May 2022. Whether or not elections will take place was a matter of discussion in the political scene, as the current political establishment has no interest in holding a vote after losing a great deal of its popularity in the “October 17” nationwide protest movement and subsequent unprecedented economic crisis. 

Parliament has already extended its own term three times between the dates of 2009 and 2017, and is aiming to do so this year if the opportunity arises. The AnNahar Elections Edition secured ink and paper for these elections to happen, and its repercussion is still ongoing to obstruct any negative stand that could prevent the Lebanese from giving their free voice and expressing their will for change.


LBB> How important is this election for the people of Lebanon and how did you ensure this importance was realised?

Yasmina Boustani, CD at Impact BBDO Dubai> Since the last elections in 2018, which produced the same class and system that had been ruling the country for decades; Lebanon has seen the worst four years of its history. 
Even without taking Covid into consideration. Talk about wildfires, financial collapse (still ongoing), currency devaluation, biggest non-nuclear explosion in history, governmental deadlock, political unrest, protests, clashes, and a mass exodus all of which are building up to the most awaited elections since the civil war. 

The 2022 elections. The elections that are carrying the hopes of millions for change, for a liberation from oligarchs and war criminals turned politicians. Any threat, obstacle or event affecting these elections like a shortage of ink and paper is a nail on the coffin for the hopes of a better liveable Lebanon. With this initiative AnNahar insured that nothing should stop these elections from happening, keeping the hopes of a people that have been fighting for the past four years alive to see another day.

LBB> What part did Impact BBDO play in the overall campaign?

Jarrad Pitts, senior writer at Impact BBDO Dubai> We worked as quickly as the idea came. We huddled together working out logistics, crafting copy, doing the artwork. We were on the ground with AnNahar when the presses were turned off, documenting everything. We went out on the streets, interviewing newsstand owners, capturing the passionate sentiments the Lebanese people brought forth for this movement. 
However, in the end the credit, as always, goes to our brave clients at AnNahar. They supported the idea, saw its vision and helped make it happen. 


LBB> Tell us about the public’s reactions. 

Marie Claire Maalouf, ECD at Impact BBDO Dubai> The act that AnNahar did sparked a glare of hope for the Lebanese and generated a big buzz on the streets, especially around the newsstands area. At first, people were confused why the newspaper was missing, but that quickly turned into a rippling movement of support not only around individuals who started calling AnNahar to see how they can contribute, but also private offices, printing houses, waste management groups that were offering recycled paper. 

So much so that AnNahar is now thinking of installing collection points for ink and paper under their offices for all contributors. The positive sentiment towards the act was overwhelming and the number of retweets, comments and shares from the Lebanese community living abroad was exceptional. Especially that this year the numbers of registrations of non-residents, according to latest news by Ministry of Foreign affairs is the double of the last 2018 elections. Giving a big hope for a future Lebanon they can come back to.


LBB> Tell us more about public consumption of print publications in Lebanon.

Maher Dahdouh, writer at Impact BBDO Dubai> The global press crisis coupled with the ongoing Lebanese financial crisis had its toll on Lebanese publications in general. However, people in Lebanon find ink on paper to be more reliable than pixels on screens. They depend on morning papers for reliable news and in-depth analysis of current events away from clickbait, fast media and sensationalism often found in online news sources. 
For many, the paper is a staple of the morning routine, they either get it delivered at home, at newsstands or cafes. Morning TV and radio shows even have whole segments dedicated to reading the main headlines of the dailies. So, when AnNahar the leading newspaper decided to skip a day people in Lebanon knew that, better or worse it must have been for something big.


LBB> AnNahar always does incredibly bold pieces of work with Impact BBDO. Why do you think the partnership works so well?

Dani Richa, chairman and CEO, Impact BBDO> AnNahar are a dream partner. Usually, you hear of agencies challenging their brand partners to take risks; this is a relationship in which the client often challenges the agency. Not only are they bold about the stands they take, but are fearless about making ideas that are truly ground-breaking and impactful. There is an enormous amount of the one essential ingredient that always results in incredible work: mutual trust and respect.

LBB> Any parting thoughts?

Jad El Rabahi, business unit lead at Impact BBDO Dubai> We’re in the industry of making change. We influence change of behaviour on a daily basis, whether it’s on a product, a service or brand level.  Having the opportunity to do work that is influential on a societal level, and drive change in areas that could shape a country’s path, is not only a responsibility that we take very seriously, but a drive for us to always push our limits, and find power within our tools to make a difference. 

This idea could not have happened without a team that sees their role beyond the briefs and business growth, and a brave partner in AnNahar. It takes a team with passion, and exceptional dedication to drive change.