How Egypt's Revolution Is Reshaping Local Advertising

Coke, Others Offer Messages of Positivity and Hope

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The revolution in Egypt has left marketers with a good deal of uncertainty about messaging in the new atmosphere. But as they slowly return to advertising, one key guideline of post-revolutionary Egypt is this: Be mindful of the revolution.

One safe bet is to honor the spirit of the movement.

For example, Egypt's new global tourism campaign, unveiled at a travel trade show, is adding slogans such as "Welcome to the country of peaceful revolution" and "Tahrir -- a square that rocks the world" to the existing "Egypt, where it all begins" theme from JWT, Egypt.

Dubai Lynx awarded Coke for its '89 Fans From 89' ad.
Dubai Lynx awarded Coke for its '89 Fans From 89' ad.

Ads are beginning to trickle back for packaged goods, services and telecommunications, but are "almost nil" for product categories that require a big outlay by consumers, such as durable goods, appliances and cars, said Sahar Zoghby, managing director of McCann Erickson's Middle East network, Fortune Promoseven, in Egypt.

"A major question is 'Do I use the same copy and tonality as before the revolution if I'm talking to youth'?" Ms. Zoghby said.

Her response is that the message can be the same but the way youth is portrayed, for instance, has to respect the maturity young people demonstrated in their role in the revolution. She is advising clients to advertise to take advantage of the high level of interest in media, but to only use patriotic messages if they are relevant.

Coca-Cola, for example, is working on two campaigns linking the rebuilding of Egypt to Coke's values of hope and positivity.

In one, it is working with Cairo creative Ali Ali on an online film, debuting in two weeks, that he describes as a tribute to Facebook's like button. Due to the social network's role in Egypt's revolution, the number of local Facebook users has quadrupled in two months. Mr. Ali said. "The Facebook like button is now part of our everyday culture, and had a lot to do with creating heroes like Wael Ghonim," the Google exec who 217,656 people like on Facebook.

The film will analyze giving and receiving likes and ask regular people how they use the button. "It's an uplifting film, which Egypt needs right now," Mr. Ali said.

PATRIOTIC APPEAL: In an ad, Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf talked up investing in Egypt's future.
PATRIOTIC APPEAL: In an ad, Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf talked up investing in Egypt's future.

In another effort, Ahmed Nazmy, head of marketing and strategy for the Coca-Cola Egypt Franchise, said Fortune Promoseven will reshoot for Egypt a popular Latin American spot called "Sky" in which a teenager climbs a ladder to sweep away clouds, bringing sunlight and happiness back to the world. In Egypt's version, everyone will help clear the sky.

"The whole Egyptian nation led the revolution," he said. "The message we want to communicate is, 'Let's rebuild Egypt and make tomorrow a lot better and sweeter than today.'" That's a big challenge.

TBWA Egypt, working with Egypt's Ministry of Finance, shot 16 testimonials to rally support for the economy. The spots broke three days before the crucial reopening of the stock market. In one ad, businessman Naguib Sawiris says, "We are going to buy because this is the future of Egypt." In another, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf says his 3-year-old granddaughter used to say Mr. Sharaf was going to work when he left the house in the morning. Now, after seeing him amid flags and crowds shouting "Egypt!" the little girl says, "Grandpa is going to Egypt."

Each ad ends with the words: "We will open the stock market. We will continue our journey. We will reinforce our investment. We will build houses."

Despite the ad effort, the market fell 12% in two days after reopening on March 23, and further drops were expected.

Still, in a morale boost for the country, Dubai Lynx, the Middle East ad show run by the Cannes Lions organization, will present Coca-Cola, Egypt, with the Advertiser of the Year award at the festival in Dubai this week. The winning Coke work was done by Mr. Ali, first as creative director of McCann's Fortune Promoseven and more recently as head of his own shop, Elephant Cairo.

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