PR-focused 'blank newspaper' campaign wins MENA's first Cannes Lions Grand Prix

The Blank Edition, by Impact BBDO Dubai for An-Nahar newspaper, won the top prize in the Print and Publishing category at Cannes Lions this week.

The Blank Edition for An-Nahar newspaper was a reaction to the Lebanese people’s frustration with political inactivity
The Blank Edition for An-Nahar newspaper was a reaction to the Lebanese people’s frustration with political inactivity

The UAE-based agency brought home the region’s first Cannes Grand Prix with The Blank Edition for the Lebanese daily newspaper, An-Nahar, issued as PR-strategised protest of the political situation in the Middle Eastern country.

Honouring the best creativity in circulation, the annual five-day International Festival of Creativity explores and celebrates the value of creativity in branded communications.

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Impact BBDO won the Cannes Grand Prix in the Print & Publishing Lions category (Communication Track) for ‘The Blank Edition’ entry, which saw the agency work with the leading Arabic-language daily newspaper An-Nahar to print an entirely blank edition, to highlight the Lebanese people’s frustration with political inactivity.

Impact Porter Novelli Dubai took a PR and media credit for the campaign.

"To cut through the growing apathy we decided to do exactly what the politicians were doing: Nothing at all," said the agency. "An-Nahas printed an entirely blank newspaper to send shockwaves throughout the country."

Of the 1,252 entries from 62 countries competing in the Print & Publishing Lions category, 32 Lions were awarded: 1 Grand Prix, 6 Gold, 7 Silver and 18 Bronze Lions.

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On the UAE winning the top award and taking home the Grand Prix in this category, 

Jury president, Olivier Altmann, CEO and chief creative officer, Altmann + Pacreau, France, said: "We are very happy to award the Grand Prix to a piece of work that celebrates creativity and journalism."

After the release of the completely blank edition, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief encouraged citizens to use it to write their own headlines and send messages to politicians, over social media.

Altmann said the bold campaign – and political message – led to an an easy jury decision.

"It was really unanimous – a good surprise. It took us about five seconds to award the Grand Prix," he said.

"For us, it was the perfect demonstration that print creativity can do a lot for print media itself, for print journalism.

"We thought it was really bold to award a Grand Prix to a white piece of paper that people could fill. It’s almost an interactive tool for real life."

Paul Shearer, chief creative officer at Impact BBDO, added: "It is a first; it has never been done before. It was bold and brave, and did exactly what newspapers are meant to do."

The award – considered by many to be advertising’s greatest honour – was announced on Monday evening at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, the biggest annual celebration of advertising in the world.

"It means we can make the region proud," said Shearer. "If it was another agency I’d feel proud. I hope it helps us all do better work."

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