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Startup sends heartfelt message with silly prank

BEIRUT: A Lebanese startup, Uf Concepts, is putting a spin on corporate social responsibility through random acts of kindness and heartfelt pranks posted on its YouTube channel “Uf Chou Laziz.” “We are not pranksters in the sense that we make fun of people and expose them on camera. Our pranks are all based on the belief that Lebanon has great potential for fun, and more importantly, kindness,” said Wajid al-Hitti, co-founder of the initiative.

Uf Chou Laziz translates in English to “Uf, how nice.” Its most recent act of kindness happened a few days before Christmas, when the creators of Uf Concepts led a crowd of young people in front of a Total gas station on the Charles Helou Highway, near the Forum de Beyrouth. Dressed in funky Santa outfits that matched the spirit of the occasion and accompanied by live drummers, the group distributed free fuel vouchers for taxi drivers and random passers-by, whose random gifts left them confused but happily surprised.

“Many thought they had to buy their card,” Hitti said. “They couldn’t believe that we didn’t want anything in return.”

Uf Concept provides original strategies for branding, design, entertainment and online services. To broadcast its humorous good works, the company started “Uf Chou Laziz,” which has begun to attract considerable attention for its unusually lighthearted shenanigans.

Uf Chou Laziz represents the kind of punchy creativity that characterizes Uf Concepts, the services of which are mind-bogglingly diverse. In addition to providing businesses services like event management and marketing strategies, Uf offers quirkier suggestions like corporate pranks. They’re also dedicated to making businesses social media savvy.

The spectrum of services Uf provides – from promotional items to website design and musical performances – has a lot to do with the diversity found among its partners, who all have second jobs. Hitti owns a merchandise company in China; Samah al-Hakim is a graphic designer and owner of Kook production house; Samar Maalouf is the host on Sawt al-Mada radio channel; and Nicola al-Hakim is a musician in the popular Lebanese band Adonis.

“What we’re doing might not change the status quo, but it will give it the twist that people need,” Hitti said.

The fuel giveaways were the fourth video on Uf Chou Laziz, and it generated more than 15,000 viewers in less than two weeks, with several supporters going as far as volunteering to take part in future mischief.

Ouf’s first initiative involved five people, including Hitti and some friends, who gathered in front of a ditch that was blocking traffic on the Antelias highway. They wore bathing suits and carried fishing poles while pretending to be at the beach.

“People really laughed at this one. Instead of just texting or honking their horns, they were really amused. It helped pass the time for them,” Hitti said.

The heartwarming initiative has so far attracted considerable attention, appearing on the news of several TV channels as well as on Mireille Hakim’s “Yom Jdid” program on OTV. Even though Hitti is proud of all the attention, he insists that changing the whole country is not his main goal.

“It’s not about affecting all people. It’s about affecting the right people.”

 

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