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When is Advertising more than just Advertising?

7 February 2011 One Comment

Did an ad campaign help launch the Egyptian revolt?

Everyone has talked about the protests in Egypt being a product of social media. And it is true that with 60% of the population under 30, Facebook and Twitter have played a key role in recent events.

In addition, the rebellion in Tunisia had a big role, as did the brutal murder last summer of a 28 year old Egyptian, Khaled Said, when he posted evidence of corruption on YouTube.

But there’s another factor that you may not know about.

An advertising campaign, for a cell phone company, of all things.

Rich Wakefield has had a vantage point on events in Egypt that few of us can imagine. After years in the States as an award-winning creative at BBDO Atlanta and elsewhere, he took a job last year at JWT Cairo.

A campaign Rich recently launched for his client Vodafone, the country’s largest cell phone carrier, has resonated incredibly with the people of Egypt, and it just so happens that the new “Power to You” campaign had a saturation media buy in the weeks leading to the revolt.

Did it have an impact on the public mood? Take a look and decide for yourself.

It leads me to this question: are advertisers today’s propagandists?

Do audiences believe resonant messages from iconic brands like Apple and Nike more than they believe their own government, churches, or political parties?

It strikes me that the identical sort of powerful, anthemic messaging from Mubarak’s party, or from the Muslim Brotherhood, would have been met with great skepticism. But because Vodafone didn’t have a dog in the political hunt, at least not directly, I wonder if Egyptians were more open to being affected by its message.

In this day and age, nobody has the media weight and money to put messages out there like corporations. Our own Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have virtually unlimited speech.

And, truth be told, as much as we like to say that ads are supposed to be a pure reflection of the client and not the ad’s creators, there’s no doubt that we as creatives bring our own perspectives, passions, and life experience to our work.

Here’s what Rich had to say about it:

“I can’t help but think that this campaign got into the thoughts of Egyptians. It ran heavily and was well talked about. Egyptians don’t feel like they have power. The government crushes their everyday spirit. Egyptians are so funny and so full of friendliness, it’s sad to watch the police and government take advantage of them. I’m proud they stood up and did something.”

“”Power to You” literally translates to the power in your hands. We wanted to do something powerful that told people they truly did have power. Each and every one of them.”

They certainly do.

– Stephen Curry

One Comment »

  • Molly said:

    Wow. How prophetic. I’m in tears over here.

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