Complaint: 07/040

Vodafone Text Message Advertisement

Details

Complainants
D. Mitchell
advertisers
Vodafone
Year
2007
Media
Other
Product
Telecommunications
Clauses
Decision
Upheld / Settled
ASA Links
Website Listing
Decision Document

Document

DECISION


Meeting 3 April 2006

Complaint 07/040

Complainant: D. Mitchell

Advertisement: Vodafone New Zealand Ltd


Complaint: The text message sent to Vodafone customers by Vodafone read:

"Get your hands on those hip-hop songs you know your parents would disapprove of with tracks from all your favourite cuss merchants including NWA, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent!".


Complainant, D. Mitchell, said:

"Where: I was sent a text from Vodafone on Saturday 20th January.
Who: Vodafone
Product: Music downloads

I object to the text used in part of the advertisement as it encourages children to obtain material their parents have deemed unacceptable without their knowledge..."


The Chairman ruled that the following provision was relevant:

Code of Ethics

Basic Principle 4: All advertisements should be prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.



The Advertiser, Vodafone New Zealand Limited, said:

" ... The text message which the complainant refers to states:

"Get your hands on those hip hop songs you know your parents would disapprove of with tracks from all your favourite cuss merchants including NWA, DR. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 50 cent!"

The message was sent out only once on 20 January 2007 and to those Vodafone customers (approximately 350,000) who have 'opted in' to receiving weekly updates on music downloads.

It was particularly addressed to appeal to customers who relate to hip hop music, and was consciously tongue in cheek. It acknowledged, and invited recipients to share, the humour in the fact that parents tend to have different views of music from their children. This truth may now be apparent in regard to hip hop music, but was familiar to earlier generations in regard to the popular music of the day - punk, Elvis, whatever, To imply, like the complainant, that the message incites children not to tell parents they are downloading these songs, is to mistake irreverence for subversion, and find mischief in fun.

Vodafone believes this particular text was prepared with a due sense of social responsibility and complies with Basic Principle 4. We will not be repeating it, light humour is best not repeated, but we do not believe it offends against the Code.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you require further clarification."


Deliberation


The Complaints Board perused the complaint and the correspondence before it relating to the complaint. It noted the Complainant's view that the advertisement "encourages children to obtain material their parents have deemed unacceptable without their knowledge."

The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the complaint with regard to Basic Principle 4 of the Code of Ethics.

The task before the Complaints Board was to determine whether in its view the advertisement had been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.

In making this determination it was required to take into account the product, medium, audience and context. It noted the product was an invitation to download "hip hop" music on a mobile phone at 50 cents per song. It took into account the advertiser's advice regarding the target audience, as follows:

"The message was sent out only once on 20 January 2007 and to those Vodafone customers (approximately 350,000) who have 'opted in' to receiving weekly updates on music downloads.

It was particularly addressed to appeal to customers who relate to hip hop music ...".

It took into account that the invitation was thereby limited to a single message to a selected target audience.

The Complaints Board commented that more information about the "opt in" process would have been helpful in making its determination. For example did opting in mean receipt of weekly updates for all types of music or was there a selection option.

However, the minority was of the view that the offer, which had been based on the well recognised marketing tool of parent disapproval, and the age-old social predicament of conflicting musical tastes in children and parents, was essentially humorous and mischief making. As such the minority said the advertisement did not meet the threshold to breach Basic Principle 4 of the Code of Ethics.

On the other hand, the majority considered the message, "Get your hands on those hip-hop songs you know your parents would disapprove of with tracks from all your favourite cuss merchants ...", could incite minors to purchase a product which their parents may not approve of, and also without their parents being aware. Accordingly, in the majority view, the advertisement did not meet the due sense of social responsibility to consumers and society as required by Basic Principle 4 of the Code of Ethics and was in breach of that provision.

In accordance with the majority view, the Complaints Board ruled to uphold the complaint.


Decision: Complaint Upheld