UNHCR and Jellyfish hack your favourite hashtags

David Murphy

“Behind our favourite hashtags, another reality.” That’s the concept behind UNHCR’s latest campaign, devised by Jellyfish.

The idea is simple: take the most frequently used hashtags on social networks to raise awareness about the startling daily lives of millions of people around the world and to collect donations. Because the plight of uprooted people, forced to flee their homes because of conflict, persecution or climate change, deserves as much visibility as the millions of hashtag mentions.

The need to shed light on the tough reality of millions
UNHCR's mission is to take international action to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, so that everyone forced to flee can build a better future for themselves. While the organisation is very active in the field, particularly in relation to armed conflicts, as the general public has seen with the war in Ukraine, its actions don’t end there. And the realities are no less worrying.

More than 110m people around the world are uprooted by war, persecution, violence and/or human rights violations. More than 130 countries and territories are affected. Today almost 10bn euros are needed to save lives, improve the daily lives of refugees and displaced persons, and support them in building a brighter future.

Behind these staggering figures are people in real need. Hence the need to appeal, raise awareness and gather financial support from current and future donors.

The UNHCR has therefore commissioned the agency, Jellyfish, to create a new, visually striking communications campaign. "Behind the Hashtag" began on 23 August throughout France and will be visible until the end of the year. 

Based on a founding principle: the “hacktag”
The campaign was developed with social media in mind, using the most popular hashtags on Instagram, based on data from March 2023. Built around four key moments, it creates a dissonance between what the hashtags conjure up, and the reality of millions of people around the world. This unexpected and disturbing association creates an emotional shock, tugging at the heartstrings. The addition of factual data reinforces the sense of urgency.

#SunnyDay has 55m mentions on Instagram, often evoking holidays and the pleasure of soaking up the sun. It's also the number of people affected by droughts around the world.

#BackToSchool has 14m mentions on Instagram, illustrating the start of the new school year and showing children happily reunited with their classmates. It's also the number of people waiting for humanitarian aid and protection in Syria.

#FamilyLove has nearly 8m results showing loving families going about their daily routine. It also represents the number of uprooted families and children around the world.

#HomeSweetHome has almost 66m results, expressing the happiness of being at home, of having a home. That's almost the number of people forcibly displaced within their own country.

The impact of the campaign is also owed to the geographical and temporal contextualisation of the messages via a creative online media plan (across landing pages, display, social media, emailing) and an offline media plan (DOOH, press and billboards). They are released in relevant locations (for example, the #SunnyDay creative is more powerful near train stations and airports) and over an appropriate period (for example, the #BackToSchool creative is more effective at the beginning of September for the start of the new school year).

"Our campaign has two key objectives: to raise awareness and to collect donations, which are needed more than ever to continue our work,” said Charlotte Pinet, Head of Private Sector Partnerships, UNHCR France. “The clever use of familiar hashtags to highlight urgent and worrying realities is a bold breakaway in our communications. Our powerful visuals and hard-hitting messages are being used near airports and at the start of the new school year to make a real impact. It's a game-changing campaign, skilfully orchestrated by our creative agency, Jellyfish.

You can see the #SunnyDay landing page hereAnd the #BackToSchool landing page here