Blogs & Comment

To save the world, press ‘shift’ and ‘3’

Ramsey Naja is chief creative officer, JWT MEA

“By the time this column is published, the Nobel Peace Prize will have been announced and probably generated more angst-ridden debate than necessary. Regardless of its recipient, however, one thing cannot be argued: the Nobel Peace Prize remains the greatest award this side of sainthood.

For many weeks, the online chatter has been pretty unanimous: there is a good chance that the winner will be connected with the Arab Spring. Irrespective of which side of that season they stand, most will argue that this covers a wide selection of worthy contenders, the majority of whom being from the cyber sphere. If this is the case, then I beg to differ.

Regardless of individual contributions – however courageous, or simply opportunistic as they may be – none of the movements have, in my humble view, a unifying Che Guevaresque revolutionary figure, be it in Tahrir Square or behind the screen of a laptop. No, the real hero of the Arab Spring is not a person, but a tiny little thing we have become familiar with and with whom most of us in our industry are nurturing a nascent relationship.

It’s the hashtag.

The hashtag is simply the most revolutionary and world-changing platform for wide-reaching self-expression and communication ever invented. In only this respect – but much more besides – it would be a worthy recipient of humanity’s greatest prize. Far more than any banner, slogan, song, event or even Facebook page, this little bit of the keyboard, sitting above the modest ‘3’ and for too long left to the whims of answering machines and conference call operators, has become the first letter of rallying cries that have brought the kind of response a marketer would drool over if it were for washing liquid or toothpaste.

Few in advertising have harnessed the power of that modest key. For those of us who believe our industry can actually contribute to a better world, the place to start is no longer on the poster, but after the #.”