Complaint: 11/438

Vodafone Television Advertisement

Details

Complainants
B. Bateman
Others
advertisers
Vodafone
Year
2011
Media
Television
Product
Telecommunications
Clauses
Decision
Upheld / Settled
ASA Links
Website Listing
Decision Document

Document


DECISION

Meeting 13 September 2011


Complaint 11/438



Complainant: B. Bateman & Others
Advertisement: Vodafone New Zealand Limited

Complaint: The television advertisement for Vodafone featured an actor in the kitchen trying to retrieve toast stuck in the toaster. It featured the actor picking up a knife and going over to the toaster. The scene ends before the actor puts the knife in the toaster and the accompanying voice-over said: "Bonus weekend minutes when you top up on Supa Prepay: another way to get more than you bargained for".

Complainant, B. Bateman, said:

During the advert the young guy picks up a kitchen knife and goes to put the blade in a bread toaster. The advert cuts away just before the knife goes into the top of the toaster.

I consider this to be a very dangerous act that could result if copied by anyone to result in electocution or at least a serious shock. The time that this advert was shown was during the time teenagers would be viewing.

Duplicate Complainants shared the similar views

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, said:

  1. Thank you for your letter dated 16 August 2011 in relation to the above complaint, and the subsequent emails received.

  1. While we respond to the substance of the complaints below, Vodafone is always mindful of the effect their advertisements have on consumers, and take all complaints and feedback seriously, We can confirm that as a result of the complaints received the advertisement complained of has now been taken off the air. There are no plans to run this again in the future.

  1. The advertisement was created by the advertising agency .99. Placement of the advertisement was carried out by Spark-Media.

  1. We have considered the complaint in light of the Code of Ethics, Basic Principle A, Rule 12 as set out In your letter of 16 August 2011. These are reproduced below

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

12. Safely-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'

  1. The advertisement in question (which is attached in electronic form to the covering email) is a 15 second advertisement promoting Vodafone's Top up Bonus Minutes on a Supa Prepay account

  1. Top Up Bonus Minutes are additional minutes which are added to a customer's account when they top up their Supa Prepay account. These minutes are provided over and above the dollar amount that the customer tops up. In Vodafone's view this gives customers "more than they bargained for". The advertisement was created as a play on this benefit.

  1. The advertisement shows a young man who is trying to retrieve a piece of toast stuck in a toaster, Toward the end of the advertisement he picks up a bread knife, and moves toward the toaster, Before he reaches the toaster the final frame appears, and a voiceover says "another way to get more than you bargained for". The advertisement cuts away without showing the young man putting the knife in the toaster.

  1. This was designed to show that Vodafone provides a better, less extreme way of getting "more than you bargained for".

  1. Vodafone believes that it is well known that to put a knife in a toaster may result in electric shock. The advertisement was aimed at adults, who would understand this, and the reference to getting more than you bargained for. This was not meant to, nor does Vodafone believe it does, show a situation in a way which encourages a disregard for safety. This advertisement was intended as a tongue in cheek reference to a welt known situation.

  1. The advertisement was screened by the Commercials Approval Bureau who classified the advertisement as "GXC", which allowed it to be broadcast at any time except during programmes which are intended specifically for children under the age of 13.

  1. Vodafone has adhered strictly to this classification, and made sure the advertisement did not appear during children's programming. Specifically, Vodafone' sought placements in programming for the demographic 18-49, a higher demographic than the classification would require to ensure the advertisement would not be viewed by children

  1. While Vodafone does not accept that the advertisement was a breach of the Code, it has taken on board the concerns that have been presented in these complaints. As a consequence, Vodafone has now removed this advertisement from the air, and has no plans to rerun it in the future.

  1. In light of the comments above, we ask that the complaint be NOT UPHELD with regard to these complaints.

  1. Please do not hesitate to contact the writer if you require any further assistance or clarification.



The Agency, .99, said:

Thank you for your letter regarding complaints against the Vodafone Top Up Bonus commercial, which we received on Friday the 2nd September. I can confirm that as a result of the complaints received the advertisement in question has been taken off the air and there are no plans to run this again in the future.

We have reviewed the complaints and the relevant codes noted in your letter. The advertisement was written to dramatise a situation where you may get more than you bargained for before offering the Vodafone Top Up Bonus as a better alternative. We believe that it is common knowledge that to put a knife in a toaster may result in electric shock. The advertisement was aimed at adults, the intention was not to encourage a disregard for safety and we were careful to move away from the scene before any dangerous action was made.

As part of standard practise the script and scenario was viewed by the Commercials Approval Bureau who classified the advertisement as "GXC", which allowed it to be broadcast at any time except during programmes that are intended specifically for children under the age of 13. This classification was strictly adhered to - in fact it was targeted to a Vodafone demographic of 18 - 49.

We have discussed this issue with our client and whilst we do not believe the advertisement was in breach of the Code, Vodafone has decided to remove it from air.


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 - social responsibility and Rule 12-safety.

This is one of a series of promotions for Vodafone Mobile Phone Plans advancing the idea of getting a better than expected deal.

In this advertisement a male is shown banging and shaking a toaster as he attempts to release something from the appliance. Having no luck, he is seen looking at a breadknife and then grabbing hold of it. There is no visual presentation of a dangerous practice and it is entirely left to the viewer to perhaps draw a conclusion as to what happens next.

The voiceover "another way to get more than you bargain for" clearly identifies the scenario that if you poke anything into a toaster you may get a shock at the outcome! In the same way, you will get a surprise at what is available in this particular Mobile Phone Plan. For the very reason adults know not to poke metal into a toaster and would understand the message the commercial was rated GXC so it cannot play in any programme time aimed at children.

In a number of previous decisions in which a viewer's imagination has perhaps 'assumed the worst' the complaints have not been upheld. (Examples include Decisions 04/172, 04/252, 09/515,10/146 and 11/116).

In this instance where there is no footage of a dangerous action and the voiceover reinforces the message "another way to get more than you bargain for" there is no reason for the complaint to be upheld


Deliberation

The Complaints Board carefully read all correspondence in relation to the complaint, and viewed a copy of the advertisement. It noted that the Complainants raised concerns with regard to the part of the advertisement that depicted the actor picking up a knife and moving towards the toaster, as this showed a potentially dangerous act.

The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the advertisement with reference to Basic Principle 4 and Rule 12 of the Code of Ethics. This required the Complaints Board to consider whether or not the advertisement had been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society and encouraged a disregard for safety.

Turning to the response from the Advertiser, the Complaints Board noted (in particular) where it said: "Vodafone believes that it is well known that to put a knife in a toaster may result in electric shock. The advertisement was aimed at adults, who would understand this, and the reference to getting more than you bargained for. This was not meant to, nor does Vodafone believe it does, show a situation in a way which encourages a disregard for safety. This advertisement was intended as a tongue in cheek reference to a well known situation." The Complaints Board further noted that the advertisement was rated by the Commercials Approval Bureau as "GXC", which meant the advertisement was allowed to be broadcast at any time except during programmes which are intended specifically for children under the age of 13. However, the Complaints Board considered that the advertisement contained a visual presentation of a potentially dangerous situation and encouraged a disregard for safety. The Complaints Board agreed the implication from the advertisement was that the actor was about to put the bread knife down the toaster to retrieve the toast which could result in an electric shock, and whilst the Complaints Board acknowledged the intention of the accompanying tagline and the rating of the advertisement, in its view this did not save the advertisement from depicting a potentially dangerous 'everyday' situation. Accordingly, the Complaints Board considered that the advertisement was in breach of Rule 12 of the Code of Ethics and did not observe the due sense of social responsibility required by Basic Principle 4 of the Code of Ethics.

The Complaints Board acknowledged that the advertisement had been removed where the Advertiser advised: "While Vodafone does not accept that the advertisement was a breach of the Code, it has taken on board the concerns that have been presented in these complaints. As a consequence, Vodafone has now removed this advertisement from the air, and has no plans to rerun it in the future."

However, observing the above, the Complaints Board ruled to uphold the complaint.

Decision: Complaint Upheld