On the New Vodafone Egypt Ad: Why I Am Not Offended

A few  days ago, Vodafone Egypt started a new ad campaign for its new unlimited streaming internet bundle. The campaign primarily relies on the use of celebrities- similar to Mobinil and Etisalat Egypt- by using the young actors of “Samir, Shahir, and Bahir” movie as the campaign stars. Vodafone also aimed at giving the campaign a humorous flavour by re-narrating some historic events. One of the ads mocks the failed attempt of Abbas Ibn Firnas to fly:

Personally, I did not find anything wrong with the ad, I even thought it was a very creative way to capture the audience’s attention. However, I was surprised to find that many people did not like it as much. Their main point is that Abbas Ibn Firnas is a great scientist with great contributions to the history of the science- which I personally knew none of, did you?- to be made fun of like that, and that “Vodafone Egypt owes an apology to the educated who knew that that man was truly a scientist and to the uneducated viewers who need to know who that man was”.

I respectfully disagree. Let’s look at things from an “abstract” point of view. First, Vodafone Egypt is a privately owned company that its first and most important goal is and should be maximizing its profits; it is not- and should not be- its role or duty to educate the public with the “great” achievements of past scientists.

Second and most important; advertising 101: when you start an ad campaign to sell/promote something, the campaign must appeal to the targeted audience. In this case, Vodafone is promoting internet; something for its young customers- hence the use of young actors and the attempt to make it funny. So, do the young customers of Vodafone Egypt know about Ibn Firnas’ water clock or glass planispheres? No. Do you they care? NO! Ask any young male/female walking in the street- or any age really- what they know about Abbas Ibn Firnas, and you are guaranteed to get the failed flying attempt answer- that is if you got an answer at all. It is unfortunate but it is true.

Vodafone Egypt was smart enough to capitalize on the little knowledge its targeted audience have and turn it into something relevant, something they can relate to. That IS smart advertising. Also, come to think of it, Vodafone did not claim anything Ibn Firnas did not do. The guy did cover his body with feathers, he did get on top of a hill and jumped to attempt flying, and he did fall. Maybe that was not the only thing he did, but that is the most known among the public; the public that Vodafone Egypt is targeting with its ad campaign.

Looking forward to your comments on this one.


Update 1: apparently Vodafone Egypt has removed the video from its Youtube channel. Could this be the first step towards admitting they made a mistake?

Update 2: the video is back online only an hour after it was removed. Still no official word from the company on its Facebook or Twitter accounts.

Update 3 (16/11/2010): the video is deleted again from YouTube, but it can still be viewed on TV.

Update 4 (17/11/2010): Vodafone Egypt released an official statement on their Facebook page, implicitly apologizing for offending people with the Abbas ad, vowing to gradually remove the ad from TV channels. The statement can be read here.



18 Responses to On the New Vodafone Egypt Ad: Why I Am Not Offended

  1. Nathalie says:

    I feel the reaction is exaggerated and interpretations are just absurd! People should “think” and “think hard” before pointing fingers and labeling things, especially if you are in a position to influence, since many will follow without giving it a second thought!


    • A. M. Sadek says:

      I completely agree with you. We have a tendency to get emotional when we should stop and think for a moment before reacting.

      Thanks very much for reading and commenting.

  2. Salma says:

    I have lots of comments to say on your blog post. Let’s just say that I respect your point of view. But I’ll prove that it’s totally wrong in another comment later.

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  4. Usama Fath says:

    Hello Ahmed,

    No company has the right to invade our life with its ads because it’s a private or public held, profit and of course even if it’s a non-profit company, Vodafone is not a special case. As for the issued Ad, I agree with you that most of the young youth has a little or no background about Abbas or any other of the pioneer scientist, but that does not give Vodafone the right to formulate that background that portrayed him as silly person. I guess you’ve visited this once, an Ad like this is the contrary to the tremendous efforts those people tried to say about those pioneers. Actually I wasn’t personally offended by this Ad, but think about one of those targeted audience, what’s the first thing that came to their minds as you mention Abbas now after Vodafone Ad.

    • A. M. Sadek says:

      I understand your point of view. You are basically saying that advertising with all its different forms contribute in forming our culture and views on different issues. I agree, but that shouldn’t be the case. We should form our views and background based on our reading, not some ads or historic TV shows. It is not Vodafone’s fault that people are so lazy to read history book. In addition, I honestly don’t believe that they are aiming at making some form of impression on him or trying to fight the efforts to promote the Arab pioneer scientists. They are just selling a product in an unorthodox way to appeal to their younger customers.

      Thanks for reading and commenting Usama, always a pleasure having you around here :)

  5. Yasser Ahmad says:

    I totally disagree with you here!!!!

    If the company is private owned or not that’s not the case and it is not the case if it is organization to educate people.

    There is a big concept in life, you can never have a sense humor and spread it to the public while you make no sense, later on you would lose your value of your brand “Oh that’s the brand that makes fun of scientist” or “Oh Vodafone is the company that deliver its message in any bullshit cheap jokes”.

    So far Vodfone marketing team during the history of the company advertising never made any point in any ad, and no wonder that all their Ads is only about “Buy more credit” they are so greedy company when they deliver their message and now even shallow!

    • A. M. Sadek says:

      In my opinion, products advertising is not about making a point or delivering a message, it is basically about “forcing” the viewers to get off their seats and buy that product. In our case, Vodafone is selling internet mainly to their young customers, who get off on making fun of almost everything, specially the elders. It’s not pretty, but that is how it is nowadays. Vodafone basically capitalized on that fact.

      Regarding the value of the brand or the company’s image, that is YOUR opinion, with all due respect, the company wouldn’t care about some people’s opinions of it, as long as they maximize their profits. Vodafone is greedy? So what? Isn’t capitalism about being more greedy so you can beat your rivals?

      Thank you very much for reading and commenting.

  6. Mohamed says:

    i whole heartedly AGREE with what you said, people should stop taking an AD seriously, its an AD for god’s sake, not a wrong lecture, plus, they didnt offend the guy, they took something that he REALLY did,and made a joke out of it, isnt that what WE egyptians do all the time with pretty much any trouble that we face?we turn it into a funny joke!

    people have this WAYY TOO FAAR!!!

    • What did he “REALLY” do? did ever read about the guy? First he was a polymath, & this was an experiment, that he did lots of calculations/preparation before executing it. His only lose was a single broken rip, that’s all. Also, he didn’t just put feathers on wax like they show him, that a misconception. you’re mistaking him for the Greek fable of Daedalus and his son Icarus.

      One last note, Abbas didn’t get killed from that experiment!!

      Read more about the guy before claiming you what he “REALLY” did

  7. Korayem says:

    Correction: JWT created this ad, not Vodafone.

    But still the fact remains, capitalizing on the fact that people are ignorant to spread your message is just inappropriate.

    So it’ll be OK 5 years from now to start a campaign that mocks our 1973 war? Umm Kolthom? whatever the younger generation then thinks and capitalize on that…?

    Companies now in the US have learnt the lesson the hard way: it can’t be always for profit. Read “The next evolution of marketing” to learn more about “meaningful marketing” to get my point.

    Egyptian consumers can’t suffer the ignorance of our marketing people. Their damage is catastrophic to the point that it can’t be undone.

    And if the Ad is so successful in attracting younger generations who you claim love the ad, think about the 25+ who will be switching soon that dont like the AD. If an Ad attracts a segment and bullies the other, its a FAIL ad. Case closed mate.

  8. With my all due repsect, have you ever heard about something called “Corporate Social Responsibility”?

    Also, given the wide disagrement on Twitter, Facebook, & YouTube (even some were so pissed of that they filed complaints to Vodafone customer service throught their site & the phone), your point about “young vodafone customers not caring about Ibn Firnas” is not exactly valid?

    Another thing, The sneaky way of deleting the video to remove all bad feedback is such a dump idea by a dump marketing team, 1st they don’t care about what their customer feed back, & worse, they think we are as dump as they are to not notice it was republished!!

    Find my post about the issue here: http://shadym.blogspot.com/2010/11/vodafone-egypt-fail.html

    • A. M. Sadek says:

      I agree with you on the fact that Vodafone Egypt mishandled the situation, deleting then re-uploading the video was not a smart move, specially when the ones voicing discontent were “geeks” who would be aware of what they did and why they did it.

      However, my point is still valid- about the fact that young customers do not care about him. That’s because the ones that did voice discontent majorly belong to the Twitter community. So the question is, what percentage of young Egyptians are active Twitter users? As an active member of the Twitter community yourself I’m sure you are aware that being an Egyptian tweep implies that you’re either an activist or an advanced geek, and both parties do not represent a high percentage of the Egyptian demography, let alone Vodafone customers. My point is, the wide disagreement voiced is coming from a very small percentage of Egyptians, if you looked in the video comments on YouTube you would find negative as well as positive feedback.

      Thanks you very much for reading and commenting.

  9. Star says:

    The ad was removed, here’s the new link:

  10. Faisal says:

    Wow. Amazing reaction. I’d like to see those people that actively “campaigned” for the ad to be removed to actively campaign for workers’ rights, an increase in minimum wage, an improvement in quality of life of the poor Egyptians, an end to the general ineptitude of all government and pseudo-government agencies and offices in the country just as fervently.

    After all, these are people who are alive here and now who are being affected. Their lives, their children’s and their family’s lives are being destroyed…

    As for the ad. I personally see no problem if anybody mocks anything. Just as anyone has the right to complain about this as well. Vodafone decided that it is in their corporate interest to remove the ad this time. That’s alright. If they hadn’t, that would have been alright as well.

    Now, let’s see you all get pissed off about those poor people.

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