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.

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