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The Ad That Started the Egyptian Uprisings (Not)

June 3, 2011

Finally, the truth is out. It wasn’t the success of the Tunisians, or Twitter, or Facebook or blogs by activists risking their freedom to express their discontent that inspired the revolution in Egypt. It was an advertisement.

According to the JWT Advertising Agency that made it, it was this advertisement:

This inspiring video was the centerpiece of a brand campaign for Vodafone Egypt created by the JWT agency. The video, featuring beloved actor Adel Imam speaking of the “power of 80 million people” was released on-line a few weeks before the uprisings began Jan 25. It opens with the words, “For 30 years, Egyptians have felt powerless. On 1 January, 2011 Vodafone launches ‘power to you’ in Egypt.”

In three days the video got 100,000 hits on YouTube and over 500,000 fans on Facebook.

And on June 1st, at the MENA Cristal Awards, JWT won an award for their campaign. To celebrate, they released another video that opened with the words, “for 30 years, Egyptians have felt powerless. On 1 January, 2011 Vodafone launches ‘power to you’ in Egypt.”

Over scenes of the Tahrir Square protests, the video takes credit for inspiring the Egyptian people to rise up:

“We did not send people to the streets. We did not start the revolution. We only reminded Egyptians how powerful they are.”

The video ended with a quote from Wael Ghonim,  administrator of the influential “We are all Khaled Saeed” Facebook page, in which he praises the original advertisement.

Ghonim was not amused. On June 2 he tweeted his criticismof the video” “It gives the credit to Vodafone for the revolution! And they used my name/posts without permission!”

The video also drew angry comments on YouTube and was pulled. Vodafone, already smarting from people’s anger with them for shutting down phone serviceon orders from the Mubarak regime, insisted that the agency had created this video without authorization and posted it without authorization.

It is to be expected that various political institutions over the next several years will try to lay claim to the revolution, to use the protests, the martyrs, and the resignation of the dictator, to authorize their political goals.

And the work of William Mazzarella (2003) and Brian Moeran (1996) make us aware that ad agencies are always trying to authorize their expertise by laying claim to the latest trends.

But being able to explain it doesn’t make it any less ridiculous.

Read a very well-written story about this in Al-Masry Al-Youm English right here.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 4, 2012 11:59 pm

    This is very interesting. I hadn’t come across this video before. It’s a really nice video too, and cause or not of Egyptian revolution it certainly must have inspired one or two to get on the streets, even if in a more subconscious way.

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