Joe Abou Khaled: ‘When engaged journalism is coupled with creativity, powerful standpoints come alive’
Posted on 2023 Jun,13  | By Ghada Azzi

The Middle East picked up only one Grand Clio at The Clio Awards 2023, and it went to IMPACT BBDO.

"Newspapers Inside the Newspaper Edition" for AnNahar Lebanese daily is the campaign that scooped the big prize in the Print category, along with two Bronze Clios.

The campaign revived six extinct local news publications by printing them within AnNahar's pages, inviting their journalists to write once again and publish the news on each their own spreads for just one day in celebration of press freedom.

That same campaign also won a Grand Prix at the Dubai Lynx.

ArabAd sat with Joe Abou Khaled, Regional Executive Creative Director at Impact BBDO MENA, to gain further insights about the making of this campaign.


What in your opinion is so special about "Newspapers Inside the Newspaper Edition” campaign that made it worthy of a Grand Prix?

The campaign sheds light on a topic that has long been engraved in the history of Lebanon. Every day, authoritarianism stands against all sorts of freedoms in the country, so when a bold local brand thrives to create impactful relationships with the communities it mirrors, the impact it also has on the international community and global jury panels cannot go unnoticed. This is leading by example, towards restoring the spirit of the Lebanese in a country where everything seems to be lost.

How can you not salute a newspaper brand that went as far as to deconstruct its papers and offer itself, its sole product, to other defunct publications and previous “competitors”, in an attempt to bring the voices of outspoken journalists back to life?


Don’t you think that by tackling such a sensitive matter— the freedom of the press, a theme dear to so many— made it more inclined to win?

Obviously, this is a prominent purpose, but ultimately, what is journalism without press freedom? AnNahar has given blood, sweat and tears to the cause, and has been defending this resolution for more than 90 years now. Gebran Tueni lived by this doctrine day and night, until his last breath, even eventually sacrificing his life because he believed in this principle. Samir Kassir did the same just a few months before him.

When engaged journalism is coupled with creativity, powerful standpoints come alive.


What does a Grand Prix Clio mean to you and the agency? And are there awards shows that are dearer to your heart more than other?

Award shows were established to recognize innovative campaigns from around the world. They set the benchmarks for creativity from one festival to the other, constantly pushing the boundaries of an industry that will never stop reinventing itself.

The Clios are considered almost like the “Oscars” of advertising, and it’s the first time an agency from the MENA region ever wins a Clio Grand Prix. This accolade is a beautiful embodiment of the creative excellence that defines our team at IMPACT BBDO.

Cannes Lions, D&AD, The One Show, LIA and Clios are the most highly anticipated and acclaimed award ceremonies in advertising. It’s an absolute honor to be amongst the top winners in these shows.


How can you not salute a newspaper brand that went as far as to deconstruct its papers and offer itself to other defunct publications and previous “competitors” in an attempt to bring the voices of outspoken journalists back to life?


Would you consider it the best work you’ve done for AnNahar? And if you had to select one favorite from all AnNahar campaigns, what would it be? And why?


I’ve worked on the “Blank Edition”, “The New National Anthem Edition”, as well as “The Elections Edition”, and they were all highly recognized in these shows around the world. However, while they each championed a cause in their own way that led to societal change, they were also confined and defined within a specific political event, and held a very straightforward, tangible objective.

The “Newspapers Inside The Newspaper Edition” on the other hand, tackles an ever-present issue, that of freedom of speech, one that stems from the heart of the brand’s purpose. It’s almost as though this campaign has been in the making since the very first Lebanese journalist was hung in Martyr’s square more than a century ago, fueled by the blood of Samir, Gebran, all the way up to Lokman Slim, waiting to reveal itself to the public on the 12th of December 2022. The content sends a clear message to the world, that the press will never be silenced.


Newspapers are dying in Lebanon and freedom of the press is shattered every day… What’s the purpose of such campaigns aside from the awareness raising part of it? 

The World Press Freedom Day Index for 2023 mentions that "the Middle East is the world’s most dangerous region for journalists." Add to this rampant corruption at high levels of government, alongside it's dire incompetency that has collapsed the economy and run several news publications out of business, and you get quite possibly the worst place in the world to run a publication without fearing for your safety. AnNahar's insight was based on the core belief that a free and fair press shall never be silenced, and to prove that we gave those publications that had been thought to be silenced forever, their voice back.

We grew up reading AsSafir, AlAnwar, The Daily Star as well as the others. They’re part of our heritage, culture and identity, just like Gebran’s voice was, as well as his stance towards openness and free speech. Today they’re all gone, and here we are waiting in vain for accountability and justice. Reviving these free voices on Gebran Tueni’s death anniversary stands as a message of hope and belief in the potential that this country still has and can never loose.


What’s next for this campaign? A Lions GP?

June is around the corner. Let’s wait and see.


Some people say that such work is only created for awards. Any comments on this?

Awards are granted to campaigns that have a powerful impact on societies. Long gone are the days of scam ads and ghost ads that win big in shows. Today’s jurors are trained to detect intruders in the field. A quick search on the net will tell you if this campaign or that activation actually had a proper influence in the market, and whether it really generated talkability and engagement.

“Newspapers Inside the Newspaper Edition” is a piece of work that was done based on the client’s brief to commemorate the assassination of AnNahar’s late editor-in-chief, who sacrificed his life to defend press freedom. AnNahar stands with every journalist, lawyer or activist who champions freedom of speech, even giving a voice to Nizar Saghiyeh when he was summoned by the Beirut Bar Association over a ban on unauthorized media appearances.

The biggest reward we can ever receive is to secure free speech for each and everyone in this country.