Complaint: 13/090

Vodafone Television

Details

Complainants
B. Ong
G. Barker
advertisers
Vodafone
Year
2013
Media
Television
Product
Telecommunications
Clauses
Decision
Not Upheld
ASA Links
Website Listing
Decision Document

Document

COMPLAINT NUMBER
13/090
COMPLAINANT
B. Ong and G. Barker
ADVERTISER
Vodafone New Zealand Limited
ADVERTISEMENT
Vodafone Television
DATE OF MEETING
14 May 2013
OUTCOME
Not Upheld



SUMMARY

The television advertisement for Vodafone New Zealand's 4G network showed actor James Rolleston appear in a time-travelling DeLorian DMC-12, as a reference to the popular film trilogy "Back to the Future". Rolleston said he had been back in time to 1999 and had seen "a Vodafone guy" send the first ever text message. He continued, saying that Vodafone was the first to provide PXT services, 3G network and global roaming.

The Complainants said the advertisement was falsely advertising Vodafone as being the first to provide GSM services such as text, PXT and global roaming.

The Complaints Board said the simplification presented in the advertisement made reference to the commercial launch of SMS text in New Zealand for both On Account and Prepay customers. It considered that, given the hyperbolic nature of the advertisement which included time travel, the simplified information provided did not reach the threshold to be likely to mislead consumers. The Complaints Board ruled to not uphold the complaint.

[No further action required]

Please note this headnote does not form part of the Decision.



COMPLAINTS BOARD DECISION

The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the advertisement with reference to Basic Principle 4 and Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics. This required the Complaints Board to consider whether or not the advertisement contained anything which, either directly or by implication, was likely to deceive or mislead the consumer and if it had been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society.

The Complaints Board noted the Complainants' concerns that the advertisement contained some information that was incorrect, and was therefore misleading.

The Complaints Board considered the Advertiser's response, noting where it stated the actual history was more complex than it appeared in the advertisement. The Advertiser stated:

"The chronology we understand it - but could not compress into the advertisement - is as follows:

  • 1991 - test SMS message sent on Vodafone UK network on a 'Racal Vodafone' handset (when Racal owned both Vodafone and the handset manufacturer Orbitel)
  • 1993 - first 'mobile terminated' SMS message ("Call 707 to hear I new message") sent in New Zealand on our network (then owned by BellSouth)
  • 1995 - first 'mobile originated' SMS message sent in New Zealand on our network (then owned by BellSouth). The service was available only to On Account customers, and was not promoted 'above the line'
  • 1999 - commercial launch of txts in New Zealand for On Account and Prepay customers on our network".


The Complaints Board accepted the explanation from the Advertiser, and that the simplification presented in the advertisement made reference to the commercial launch of SMS text in New Zealand for both On Account and Prepay customers.

The Complaints Board considered that, given the hyperbolic nature of the advertisement which included time travel, the simplified information provided did not reach the threshold to be likely to mislead consumers.

Therefore, the Complaints Board ruled that the advertisements were not misleading and had been prepared with a due sense of social responsibility to consumers and to society and found that the advertising was not in breach of Basic Principle 4 and Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics.

Accordingly, the Complaints Board ruled to not uphold the complaint.



DESCRIPTION OF ADVERTISEMENT

The television advertisement for Vodafone New Zealand's 4G network showed actor James Rolleston appear in a time-travelling DeLorian DMC-12, as a reference to the popular film trilogy "Back to the Future". Rolleston said he had been back in time to 1999 and had seen "a Vodafone guy" send the first ever text message. He continued, saying that Vodafone was the first to provide PXT services, 3G network and global roaming.

COMPLAINT FROM B. ONG

They claimed the first text (in NZ) was sent by a Vodafone guy in 1999, and that Vodafone was the first (in NZ) to provide text, PXT, roaming etc.
However, Bell South was the first to provide GSM service in NZ, and text services was available back then (I was certainly texting back in 1997!!). I was roaming globally with Bell South in 1998.
So this ad is falsely advertising Vodafone as being the first to provide GSM services such as text, PXT, global roaming, etc

A Duplicate Complainant shared similar views.

CODE OF ETHICS

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

Rule 2: Truthful Presentation - Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge. (Obvious hyperbole, identifiable as such, is not considered to be misleading).

RESPONSE FROM ADVERTISER, VODAFONE NEW ZEALAND LIMITED

Our advertising agency Draft FCB created and placed the advertisement on our instructions.

The network and business purchased by Vodafone from BellSouth in 1998 was owned by BellSouth when these network "firsts" - GSM, roaming, txts (discussed more particularly below) occurred. Vodafone rebranded the business that year. The BellSouth brand disappeared from New Zealand, and has yet to return. The claim we make in our advertisement is that it is the Vodafone network upon which these firsts were achieved by individuals some of whom are employees of Vodafone to this day.

G. Barker disputes our claim that in 1999 Vodafone sent the first text, quoting Wiki's reference to an SMS message sent in 1992. It was not our intention to claim for Vodafone New Zealand the first text sent ever. Our claim is that the first text sent in this country was sent on our network. In our advertisement we date this to 1999, the first commercial mass market offering of mobile originated texting in New Zealand.

We accept that history is more complicated than appears from our advertisement. The chronology we understand it - but could not compress into the advertisement - is as follows:

  • 1991 - test SMS message sent on Vodafone UK network on a "Racal Vodafone" handset (when Racal owned both Vodafone and the handset manufacturer Orbitel)
  • 1993 - first "mobile terminated" SMS message ("Call 707 to hear I new message") sent in New Zealand on our network (then owned by BellSouth)
  • 1995 - first "mobile originated" SMS message sent in New Zealand on our network (then owned by BellSouth). The service was available only to On Account customers, and was not promoted "above the line"
  • 1999 - commercial launch of txts in New Zealand for On Account and Prepay customers on our network


We are happy to assist with any further queries.

FURTHER RESPONSE FROM ADVERTISER, VODAFONE NEW ZEALAND LIMITED

As discussed this morning, this note is to confirm my 11 April advice that the advertisement in issue was created and placed by our advertising agency Draft FCB on Vodafone's instructions.

All aspects of the advertisement material to the above complaint are exclusively Vodafone's responsibility.

So far as the material issues are concerned, Draft FCB has nothing to add to Vodafone's 11 April response.

RESPONSE FROM COMMERCIAL APPROVALS BUERAU 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 2-truthful presentation.

Two complainants queried the statement that the first text in New Zealand was sent by a Vodafone guy in 1999. And that the company was the first in New Zealand to provide PXT, Roaming, Prepay, Best Mates, iPhones and now 4G.

Before approving this commercial, CAB requested substantiation of the claims from Vodafone. We were satisfied with this material and assume that Vodafone will be providing that same substantiation in their response.

The claim relates to the first commercial text message from user to user in New Zealand. Previous texts from network to a user were not regarded as commercial use as would be understood by the average viewer. (Bell South had offered the first SMS in the early '90's but it was limited only to their own customers). By 1998 the Bell South network had been purchased by Vodafone and that as same network is used by the telecommunication provider today.

CAB believes the average viewer would understand that the first text claim related to the general public's ability to use the text function. The remaining first claims relate to network ownership and that is clearly still in Vodafone's domain. CAB contends the complaint should not be upheld.