Vodafone "Make the most of now" Billboard Advertisement
Meeting 11 April 2006
Complainant: D. MacIntyre
Advertisement: Vodafone New Zealand Limited
Complaint: The billboard advertisement in bright green and bright pink, said, in ornate old-fashioned print: "In the future beer will be a Class A drug".
Red print below said: "make the most of now" and included the Vodafone logo.
Complainant, D. MacIntyre, said:
Where: Billboard advertisement placed by Vodafone on the motorway flyover which crosses Victoria Street in Auckland, outside Victoria Park market and adjacent to the bottom of Franklin Road.
When: The billboard is currently on display at the time of writing.
Description: The advertisement states: "In the Future Beer will be a Class A Drug". This is accompanied by the tag line "Make the most of it now".
In my opinion the inference to take from this is that beer is akin to class A drugs, and that these are "good", "enjoyable" things which should be "made the most of".
If Vodafone's argument is contrary to this, the company should explain why it is making a connection between beer and class A drugs, in a favourable context.
In a time when the fight against drug abuse and the related devastation of dependency is a major concern in all countries, I find Vodafone's use of this type of advertising to be trite, stupid and offensive."
The Chairman ruled that the following provisions were relevant:
Code of Ethics
Basic Principle 4: All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.
Rule 5: Offensiveness - Advertisements should not contain anything which in the light of generally prevailing community standards is likely to cause serious or widespread offence taking into account the context, medium, audience and product (including services).
Advertiser, Vodafone New Zealand Limited, said:
"The complainant says that Vodafone's billboard advertisement infers that beer is akin to a class A drug and that these "good" "enjoyable" things which should be made the most of now.
The complainant says too, that if our argument is contrary to this (it is - Vodafone believes the advertisement makes no such inference), then Vodafone should explain why it makes a connection between beer and class A drugs in a favourable context.
Vodafone's Group Account Director at Lowe, Rob Hoar, has made the point that the advertisement is meant to be funny. The joke depends upon an appreciation that beer is not akin to a class A drug. A future in which beer were a class A drug would be an absurdity.
The only connection made by the advertisement between beer and class A drugs is the connection made in an absurd future: a connection so patently ridiculous that it is laughable. It is the disconnection between beer and class A drugs that drives the humour.
Vodafone is a values based organisation which takes it corporate social responsibilities seriously. Vodafone's ads are intended to reflect, not run counter to, community values. The "now" which the ad urges us to "make the most of " is the "now" we live in: a community which prohibits class A drugs and makes them subject to criminal sanction, but accepts that beer may be enjoyed.
I hope the above comments help in clarifying the matter but please let me know if there anything more you require."
The Agency, LOWE, said:
"I am writing in response to your letter dated 28 February 2006 regarding the Vodafone "In the future beer will be a class A drug - make the most of now" advertisement on the Victoria Street flyover (the site owned by Oggi).
Humour is the overriding feature of this advertisement. The absurd statement that "in the future beer will be a class A drug" is intended to get people thinking about the future and having a greater appreciation for the things that they can do right now.
I do not believe that the advertisement is inadvertently promoting the use of class A drugs nor is it encouraging binge drinking. The aim of the new brand advertising campaign (of which this billboard is part) is only to encourage people to do the things they enjoy right now and, let's face facts; many people enjoy drinking the occasional beer.
With due respect to D. Maclntyre's complaint, I do not believe that this advertisement is in breach of rules 4 and 5 of the Advertising Code of Ethics."
The Complaints Board perused the relevant correspondence and the billboard advertisement. It noted Complainant, D. MacIntyre, was of the view that it promoted a socially irresponsible message about alcohol and drug consumption.
The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the complaint with reference to the Code of Ethics, Basic Principle 4 and Rule 5.
The Complaints Board was of the view that the advertisement contained thought provoking humour directed towards a particular audience which would understand the message, which was to do enjoyable things in the present. Even after taking into account the public nature of the medium, the Complaints Board said the advertisement could not be said to encourage increased consumption of beer or the taking of class A drugs, and had been prepared with the due sense of social responsibility required by Basic Principle 4. Furthermore, in the Complaints Board's view, it would not be likely to cause either serious or widespread offence and thereby was not in breach of Rule 5.
Having made the above observations, the Complaints Board ruled to not uphold the complaint.
Decision: Complaint Not Upheld