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Behind Lebanon’s “Beauty with a Purpose” Pageant



The Miss Lebanon beauty pageant and Impact BBDO Beirut shine a light on women who continue to support the country during this challenging time, writes LBB’s Nisna Mahtani

Behind Lebanon’s “Beauty with a Purpose” Pageant

Following a three-year hiatus, Miss Lebanon returned as ‘We Miss Lebanon’ and celebrates women who stand up and fight for the country as it goes through some of the toughest circumstances it has ever faced. 

With images of the women of Lebanon campaigning against injustices and images of the country in its splendour, the campaign uses the beauty pageant as a platform for change. Impact BBDO Beirut’s regional executive creative director Joe Abou-Khaled explains why it was so important to showcase the good in the country to the nation, as well as on a global level. He says, “Lebanon’s core identity and image are being distorted and wrongly shared with the rest of the world,” and this was an opportunity for restoration. Even with the economic crisis in the country and the aftermath of the Port of Beirut explosion still being rectified, Lebanon continues to have a rich cultural heritage and beauty that it wants to share with the rest of the world.

Speaking to LBB’s Nisna Mahtani, Joe and other members of Impact BBDO Beirut’s team, namely creative director Anthony Azzi and social strategist Amanda Zeitouni, share their vision for the pageant going forward.

LBB> When the Miss Lebanon pageant was scheduled to come back in 2022, what were the first ideas surrounding the campaign?

Joe> After three years of absence, the pageant was initially set to take place in October 2021. It was rescheduled to March 2022 due to the covid-19 outbreak and instability in the country. The parliamentary elections were then pushed to that same date, and the pageant was rescheduled a third time to finally take place on July 24th 2022. All this is to say that the event is directly linked to the fragile situation in Lebanon. 

I was invited at an early stage to deliberate with the LBCI executive committee and decide whether the pageant should take place or not, given the country’s socioeconomic crisis and the mindset of the people. The brief was clear: ‘We want to go ahead with it, but how?’ We first needed to find a narrative and an angle that can resonate positively and be relevant given the deteriorating situation of the country.

I knew from the beginning that the competition needed a complete rebranding strategy and naturally a new title. It had to have a nationalistic edge and empower women to champion purposeful initiatives. The #WeMissLebanon idea was the first and only direction we presented to the client. It was the winning hook.

LBB> How did you initially come up with using ‘We’ Miss Lebanon? And what does the title signify?

Joe> Lebanon has always been synonymous with beauty, splendour, and rich cultural heritage. In 1971, Ms Georgina Rizk represented Lebanon in the Miss Universe pageant and won the competition, making her the first Lebanese and Arab woman to receive that title. She remains to this day a face that represents Lebanon’s bygone golden age. There is something about this ‘Lebanese Dream’ that is still very much alive in people’s collective memory. People believe that this is the true Lebanon, their Lebanon, which was taken away from them. Today more than ever, this memory is being slaughtered, putting the country at its lowest point on every front. Lebanon’s core identity and image are being distorted and wrongly shared with the rest of the world. The upcoming beauty pageant can contribute towards restoring that.

Promising people to bring back the good old days is an overpromise, but reviving the memory of this glorious past would help inject optimism and hope in the face of adversity. Besides, who other than the Lebanese women can endorse this cause and carry out this responsibility? It was therefore important that each contestant presents herself with an agenda, a proposal to adopt an impactful project. The new Miss Lebanon would be elected for both her beauty and her ability to champion a national cause that would make a difference in people’s lives. ‘We Miss Lebanon’ repositions the pageant from a competition based on physical beauty to a nationwide engagement to fight for a better tomorrow.

LBB> What was the main message you wanted to share with the audience?

Joe> We wanted to shift the perception of traditional standards of physical beauty and image to a more empowered one, carrying the nation in the heart. We Miss Lebanon is a call for ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ to inject renewed hope into an entire country.

Anthony> It’s an effort to remind the world of the magic that this small country still has to offer, by shedding light on the progressive and entrepreneurial spirit of the human Lebanese asset. We Miss Lebanon is about bringing some levity to people’s lives and ascertaining Lebanon’s position on a local, regional, and global stage, as the home of mission-driven and passionate women who display both outer and inner beauty. It’s not just a national beauty pageant, it’s a global call to stand by Lebanon and engage the people who believe in it. What it used to be, what it truly is and always will be.

LBB> The narration behind the video supports the message. How long did it take to create the script for that and how did you go about finding the best narrator to voice over the piece?

Anthony> After several internal script attempts, our copywriter delivered a passionate ode to the Lebanese woman. The script flowed naturally and became a befitting casting call instead of just announcing the comeback of the pageant. Upon hearing her delivering the script over a WhatsApp voice message, it was unanimously agreed that her genuine tone of voice and delivery should be featured on the final online version, rather than hiring a professional VO talent.

LBB> Who are the women you featured in the campaign and why did you choose them in particular?

Amanda> During the past few years, Lebanese women have been advocating and leading positive change initiatives, displaying so much beauty and strength which obviously go beyond their physical appearance. This vision of a ‘complete woman’ that stands for what she believes in is what this year’s show should be all about. We want to ascertain to the whole world that yes, Lebanese women are beautiful, but even more, they are leaders and guardians of Lebanon’s values and freedoms.

So naturally, we wanted to reveal the beauty of an everyday Lebanese woman, that is why we used photos of real women. We even featured a few employees from the agency.

Joe> We wanted to stress the ‘everyday queen’ who led the revolution two years ago and stood on the frontline between the demonstrators and the government's security apparatus. The one who voluntarily came down to clean the streets from debris and glass shards the morning after the August 4th Beirut explosion. The one who offered help, money, food and shelter to the needy. We added the WML sash on powerful moments in photojournalism featuring heroic stands. That is the true beauty of our women, the one we wanted to capture in the ad.

LBB> Alongside the women, you also feature images of the country in its splendour. Where are the location images from and why did you choose to showcase Lebanon in this way?

Anthony> Lebanon has always been known for its beautiful landscape, nature, weather, culture, and hospitality. After the crisis hit hard and following the Beirut explosion, the country became synonymous with conflict and collapse. We wanted to restore the true image of Lebanon to the outside world by showcasing all its beauty and that of its people. We, therefore, collected some of the most gorgeous and breathtaking photos from north to south, from key landmarks to scenic landscapes, nightlife and beaches. All these images connect emotionally with the Lebanese audience whether at home or abroad. The film becomes a beautiful analogy between the woman and her country, and how both are intertwined forever.

LBB> How long did it take to capture the images in the campaign?

Anthony> The film was entirely made in-house in the creative department. We collected images from Lebanese photographers, mainly Rami Rizk who is an expert in landscape drone photography and Jad Ghorayeb whose lens didn’t leave the streets of Beirut. We shot a few with our phones and gathered some more from stock. It wasn’t about the production value, it was all about the emotional connection.

LBB> What has the response to the campaign been like in Lebanon?

Amanda> We witnessed an amazing response to the campaign on several social and digital platforms, reaching over 100M users with 457M Impressions on Twitter, along with capturing the attention of 14M views on TikTok in just one day. On the night of the event, #WeMissLebanon was the top trending hashtag in Lebanon and the second on a regional level. People are still using it today on all platforms.

We were also very happy to see artists, public figures, and influencers actively interacting and using the hashtag on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok, where they shared their messages with the future Miss and the world. They voiced their genuine thoughts and how the campaign made them feel nostalgic over Lebanon’s lost glory.
And because we were looking for educated young women to partake in the competition, we took advantage of the LinkedIn platform and launched a headhunting casting call that generated 40x the average click-through rate on awareness, exceeding the average by

The platform also influenced the country’s Ministry of Tourism campaign, which also borrowed the theme and addressed the diaspora as they flooded the country during the summer.

LBB> And what about globally? What are some of the reactions you’ve seen or heard?

Amanda> The #WeMissLebanon campaign stirred the hearts of the Lebanese not only at home but even abroad. People’s feelings flooded online platforms with positive sentiments and openly expressed their hopeful thoughts and opinions towards the country they long for. Many Lebanese ex-pats who reside in countries such as the United States, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, Jordan, UAE, and Qatar, showed prominent engagement by using our hashtag on socials.

The event was watched by millions of viewers from around the world, and to date, was the most watched Lebanese beauty pageant televised live on LBCI channel. Its spectacular stage production and exclusive star performances brought back Lebanon to the international stage.

LBB> We’d love to hear your parting thoughts. Can you share them with us?

Joe> Humanism is driving communication right now in Lebanon. Purpose-driven brands publicly commit to corporate social responsibility values as mainstream advertising. That is the key to entering people’s hearts and minds so they can take the necessary action.

In a previous Q&A with LBB, I’ve written the following: “Creativity against collapse is a methodology that I implement in my work to empower the Lebanese community through advertising. It’s an ongoing invitation to engage the audience with honesty and positivity while championing innovation and talent against collapse and regression… Our mission is to shed light on Lebanon’s progressive flair as means of resistance against the oppressor.”

We adopt a bottom-up approach where the voice of the people is magnified to become the voice of the country. #WeMissLebanon is a beautiful testament to this creative practice and we’ll make sure to implement it in every brief until the Lebanese attain their basic rights.

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Impact BBDO, Tue, 09 Aug 2022 16:01:00 GMT