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“It took us about 5 seconds”: A blank newspaper wins the Publishing Grand Prix at Cannes

A blank piece of paper, albeit one that sparked an international conversation, was awarded the Grand Prix in Print and Publishing at the Cannes Lions Festival, on Monday.

Lebanon’s oldest newspaper An-Nahar went out to newsstands completely blank on October 11, 2018, to protest against what it called a “catastrophic situation”—a stalled government and economic woes—in the tiny Mediterranean country.

“People are tired and An-Nahar is tired of writing up your pretexts and repeated empty promises,” Editor-in-chief Nayla Al-Tueni said at a press conference. “The blank pages are a wake-up call to everyone concerned.”

“The Blank Edition” was covered in more than 100 publications internationally, and Tueni called on Lebanese citizens to write their own headlines and send messages to politicians, over social media. “We cannot continue treading the same path,” she asserted.

“The Blank Edition” went on to become the best selling edition of the newspaper, earned global coverage in 100 publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and the BBC and achieved 5 million dollars worth of earned media, AdAge reports.

The award was given to Impact BBDO Dubai, which conceptualized the attention-grabbing white space on An-Nahar as a representation of civic conversation grinding to a halt. The thinking behind the initiative was, “If the politicians aren’t working, why should anyone else?”

“It was the perfect demonstration that print creativity can do a lot,” explained Print and Publishing Jury President Olivier Altmann, co-founder, CEO and CCO of Altmann & Pacreau, France. “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.”

The irony is not lost on us that we’re awarding the Grand Prix to a blank piece of paper,” said Ana Balarin, Partner at agency Mother London and member of the Print and Publishing jury. “To think that it was a piece of paper that transformed everything, that was what was so powerful.”

At a moment when politicians around the world are not doing their job properly for people, it was a great example of how ideas can change the world for good.

Olivier Altmann, Print and Publishing Jury President

“It was really unanimous,” Altmann said about the jury’s decision, which came very easily. “It took us about five seconds to award the Grand Prix.”

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Photos credit: Reuters

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