Lebanese newspaper creates AI politician to highlight its reporting 

Arabic news brand AnNahar used AI to create an AI presidential candidate, and let people grill it about political issues

Over the past two years, Lebanon has failed 14 times to elect a new president, resulting in the nation being unable to form a government. To draw further awareness to the issue and help Lebanon during this crisis, Arabic daily newspaper AnNahar offered the country an alternative presidential candidate, built using artificial intelligence and trained on 90 years of the publication’s impartial reporting.

The campaign kicked off with a nationwide digital and OOH push to direct citizens to an AnNahar live broadcast where the new president of the country would be announced. When people tuned into the event, it was revealed that AnNahar had created an AI President, who was then interviewed by AnNahar’s editor-in-chief, Nayla Tueni, about the most pressing issues facing the country.

Annahar then opened up the AI President to be grilled by the public, launching a website where people can ask the AI President for solutions to any of the country’s biggest problems. AnNahar also launched a special edition of its daily newspaper that suggested new policies written by the AI President for different governmental sectors such as public services and infrastructure.

The OurPresident.AI website emphasises that the AI President can make decisions that are more decisive, unbiased and non-self-serving than human politicians. ‘Unlike transient human leaders driven by corruption, power, and greed, the AI President embodies transparency, integrity, and utilitarianism, and operates solely on logic and data-driven decision-making,’ the copy reads. AnNahar reports that its AI President is now sitting in on parliamentary meetings and helping instruct on reforms and new policies. The campaign was created by agencies Impact BBDO, Dubai, and Addition, New York.

Results / According to the campaign’s case study, the campaign increased subscriptions to AnNahar by 28% and generated more than $25m in earned media for the brand. The special edition of its daily newspaper was the most read in the company’s 90-year history. In addition, AnNahar reported that 100,000 responses have already been generated by the AI President.

Contagious Insight 

Freedom of the press / AnNahar’s AI President campaign reinforces the publication’s impartiality and reputation for protecting the rights of Lebanese people.

The core idea behind the campaign simply wouldn’t work if the data the AI President was trained on was biased or corrupt; AnNahar input its own extensive and impartial reporting over the last 90 years to build the technology – effectively creating a live interactive demo of its credibility for people to engage with. If a consumer uses the OurPresident.AI website to ask the AI President about pressing issues such as the environment, poverty, housing or immigration in Lebanon, they automatically interact with AnNahar’s journalism.

When Contagious spoke to BBDO Impact in 2022, regional executive creative director Joe Abou-Khaled emphasised that AnNahar has a long reputation for standing up for its nation’s people and argued that publications should be vocal about what matters most to its readers. ‘This is what newspapers really should do. They’re championing free and independent journalism in a country that is still very overwhelmed with political agendas and they’re raising the bar each time to keep fighting for the rights of the people and not just for the brand.’

Extra, extra. Read all about it / AnNahar’s AI President is the latest campaign to result from the always-on brief (to find big ideas that can help translate the brand’s mission within the territory) the newspaper has with Impact BBDO. In 2018, AnNahar published a Blank Edition of its daily newspaper to give Lebanese citizens space to write messages to their politicians when the country was without a government for eight months. Then, in 2022, AnNahar pulled the Elections Edition of its newspaper and donated the resources when shortages of ink and paper risked there not being enough ballot papers for voters.

Both campaigns earned Grands Prix in the Print & Publishing categories at Cannes Lions. Ali Rez, Impact BBDO’s chief creative officer for the Menap region told Contagious: ‘As a brand, and as a product itself, they’re very bold. They’re very daring. It’s a dream brand partner from that perspective in that they constantly urge us to push the limits of what will be terrifying to most people. They’re fearless and they recognise that in order to make some noise in a place like Lebanon, to really move people, you have to do something that goes beyond the ordinary.’

Printing money / AnNahar has high journalistic integrity and altruistic intentions, but at the end of the day, it is still a business with the ongoing challenge of selling newspapers in a world where print is a dying art form. In June 2022, Michel Helou, the director of Lebanese newspaper L’Orient-Le Jour, told UNESCO: ‘Lebanon used to be the capital of freedom of speech and quality newspapers and media since the 19th century, and this has collapsed over the last decade, and this collapse has accelerated over the last two years. There is absolutely no way to sustain a print business model in Lebanon.’ To keep AnNahar relevant and operational in today’s digital world, the publication needs to give people a reason to read and buy its journalism – which is exactly what this campaign does. Bold stunts like the AI President can inject new life into a brand and galvanise supporters, which is ever more urgent for print publications.

This article was downloaded from the Contagious intelligence platform. If you are not yet a member and would like access to 11,000+ campaigns, trends and interviews, email [email protected] or visit contagious.com to learn more.