In Tunisia, What's the Worst That Could Happen if You Don't Vote?

Memac Ogilvy Reminds Citizens That Dictatorship Could Return If They Don't Participate

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In the run-up to Tunisia's democratic elections Oct. 23, the country's Engagement Citoyen ("Citizen Engagement") group worked hard to get out the vote. As part of the effort, Memac Ogilvy Label Tunisia came up with an outdoor stunt: a huge poster of ousted president and former dictator Ben Ali was hung in a suburb of Tunis, to the shock of appalled residents.

When the image was quickly torn down, another banner was revealed underneath, reading: "Beware, the dictatorship can return. On Oct. 23rd, Vote." The whole stunt was filmed and the video, ending with shots of the crowd's anger turning to understanding and approval, was used as a viral to further encourage voting. On Sunday, voter turnout was high and the election process, after a 23-year dictatorship, was peaceful.

Memac Ogilvy Label isn't new to the fight for democracy in Tunisia. After ousting its ruler early this year in the region's first Arab Spring uprising, the country was mired in a general strike and the economy ground to a halt. Realizing that people were losing hope, the agency came up with an unusual way to encourage Tunisians to start building the country they want: pretend it's 2014 already.

The agency enlisted brands and media -- TV, newspapers, websites -- to make believe that it was June 16, 2014, and that Tunisia was a prosperous, democratic country, thanks to everyone's earlier efforts as they got back to work. The Twitter hashtag #16juin2014 and website helped Tunisians imagine a near-future more optimistic than their uncertain present, and called for action now. One newspaper article, for instance, dated June 16, 2014, reported on a Tunisia with a thriving film industry, lots of Ikea stores and almost an entire population on Facebook and Twitter.

The June 16, 2014 campaign won a Gold Media Lion for Memac Ogilvy Label this year at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity .

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