Vodafone Television Advertisement
Meeting 11 May 2010
Complainant: C. Thompson
Advertisement: Vodafone New Zealand Limited
Complaint: The television advertisement featured five white creatures, named "Zoozoos", standing in a line in a room with a machine which resembled a photocopier. One Zoozoo summoned the first Zoozoo in the line and it stepped up and placed it's head on the machine. A scanning noise was then heard and a picture of the Zoozoo's face popped out onto a tray attached to the machine. Another Zoozoo stepped up and this action was repeated. A red title shot was shown with the words: "Update facebook using the internet on your mobile", followed by a second title shot which stated, "Get online for just $1 a day on the days you use it". Smaller print below said: "FreeTXT "www" to 5483 to get online today". The Vodafone logo and the word "Vodafone" then appeared on the screen.
Complainant, C Thompson, said:
"I am horrified at a Vodafone advertisement shown on Prime TV on Monday 15th March, 2010, at 5.42pm.
Characters resembling children line up to use a photocopier. Each character then lifts the lid of the photocopier, puts their face to the glass and presses the button.
The light from these machines could cause serious damage to the eyes if it is looked at.
I believe this advertisement breaches the standard of responsible programming. The advert is encouraging people, and children in particular, to photocopy their faces, which is highly dangerous."
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 12: Safety - Advertisements should not, unless justifiable on educational or social grounds, contain any visual presentation or any description of dangerous or illegal practices or situations which encourage a disregard for safety.
The Advertiser, Vodafone New Zealand Limited, also on behalf of the Agency, ColensoBBDO, said:
"Thank you for your letter. This complaint concerns advertising for "Internet on your Mobile" (Advertisement).The Advertisement was generated by Vodafone New Zealand Limited (Vodafone). The advertising agency ColensoBBDO assisted in placing this advertisement, and has authorised us to respond on their behalf.
The characters in the advertisements are "Zoozoos" and are fantasy creatures that are not intended to represent childlike humans.
The Advertisement was a light-hearted way to encourage customers to think differently about using Internet via mobile phones, particularly when tied into using a "Facebook" application.
While we consider the Advertisement was clearly fanciful, we also note that the complainant's concerns in respect of the activity portrayed are baseless. There is no evidence to suggest that photocopying one's face is dangerous (as long as the activity is kept to a minimum), A recent report by the BBC (attached) played down any detrimental effects that could be caused by such an activity. It quotes Professor Neville Osborne, of the Nuffield Laboratory of Ophthalmology in Oxford: "If it is just one or two flashes then I can't see it being damaging."
We note that each Zoozoo character featured in the Advertisement was only shown undertaking the photocopying activity once.
Accordingly we consider that the Advertisement did not contain any representation of a dangerous practice, nor of a situation that encouraged a disregard for safety. Further, we do not consider that the Advertisement breached any duty of social responsibility to consumers.
We ask that the Board consider this matter Not Upheld."
Commercial Approvals Bureau (CAB) said on behalf of the media:
"We have been.asked to respond to this complaint under the Code of Ethics - Basic Principle 4 - due sense of social responsibility; and Rule 12 - safety.
This commercial depicts the Vodafone Zoozoos - cute little characters appearing worldwide in various Vodafone commercials. They have taken over the virtual world by storm, and, particularly in India where Vodafone is an official partner of the IPL (Indian Premier League), an enormous merchandising industry ranging from clothing, games, wallpaper to videos has evolved around these funny creatures.
The advertisement depicts several creatures updating their own data by queuing to have their photos taken on a copy machine. While the Zoozoos remain confined to this slow office type situation the commercial promotes the fact that consumers can now jump on Facebook using their mobile to update their status, check out the latest pictures and keep up with the gossip anywhere and at anytime.
It is accepted from Health and Safety Organisation documentation that while the light from lamps in photocopiers is not regarded as harmful, it can lead to eye strain when encountered repeatedly. However, in this instance the cartoon characters each jump up only once to have their 'facebook' updated and the target market of teenagers/adults who use Facebook will be well aware of the intended message of the versatility of Vodafone mobiles.
Young children are most unlikely to either have unrestricted access to photocopier machines and then the opportunity to repetitively use them in an unauthorised manner. CAB submits that this complaint should not be upheld."
The Complaints Board read carefully the relevant correspondence and watched the television advertisement. It noted Complainant, C. Thompson, was of the view that the advertisement did not observe a due sense of social responsibility as the characters in the advertisement resembled children and could encourage children to photocopy their faces which, in the Complainant's view, could damage their eyes.
The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the complaint with reference to Basic Principle 4 and Rule 12 of the Code of Ethics. The task before the Complaints Board was to determine whether the advertisement had been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society, as required by Basic Principle 4 and whether it contained any visual presentation of a dangerous practice which would encourage a disregard for safety, thereby breaching Rule 12.
The Complaints Board took into account the aim of the advertisement which was to encourage customers to think differently about using Internet via mobile phones in a light hearted way, particularly when using the "Facebook" application. It noted CAB's advice that the advertisement depicted "several creatures updating their own data by queuing to have their photos taken on a copy machine." CAB explained that "the target market of teenagers/adults who use Facebook will be well aware of the intended message of the versatility of Vodafone mobiles."
In the Complaints Board's view the advertisement, which clearly showed fictional Zoozoo characters each having one photocopy of their face taken in a hyperbolic and animated setting, did not contain any visual presentation or any description of a dangerous practice which would encourage a disregard for safety. Accordingly, the Complaints Board ruled that the advertisement was not in breach of Rule 12 of the Code of Ethics.
The Complaints Board was also of the view that the advertisement met the due standard of social responsibility required by Basic Principle 4 of the Code of Ethics.
The Complaints Board ruled to not uphold the complaint.
Decision: Complaint Not Upheld