Monday, June 6, 2011

Vodafone: Proud Sponsors of the Egyptian Revloution!

I feel sick to my stomach watching this.

Firstly, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Ghazy and I write copy.


Vodafone Egypt JWT Ad Taking Credit For #Jan25... by andreasudo


Kaz asked me to blog about the controversy surrounding the case study released by JWT Egypt regarding their "Our Power" commercial made for Vodafone Egypt. As people ‘riding the freedom wave’ are one of my major pet peeves, I agreed.

Both Vodafone and JWT rode their luck by releasing the commercial on January 1st, just 23 days before the historic revolution that happened in Egypt. In fact during the uprising, many people joked that Vodafone instigated the revolution so their commercial could take all the credit.

In truth, people weren’t that far off.


Earlier this week, a three-minute video started circulating the Internet, which consisted of a JWT “case study” of the “Our Power” commercial. Even the blindest of bats could understand the message this video was conveying: “Without us, the revolution would have not been possible”.

The arrogance, naivety and sheer stupidity of releasing this video was incomprehensible and inexcusable. The main points I would like to focus on in this video are the first couple of slides and the last slide.

“For 30 years Egyptians have felt powerless. On January 1st Vodafone launches ‘power to you’ in Egypt”.

Really? So after 30 years, the “Our Power” commercial suddenly acted as Popeye’s spinach and gave the people the power to stand up for themselves? It wasn’t Tunisia? It wasn’t social media? It wasn’t those brave protesters trying to emulate their fellow countrymen?

Nope, it was a washed up comedian reading an unconvincing script for a boring two and a half minutes.

My absolute favorite part of the case study was this:

“We didn’t send people to the streets. We didn’t start the revolution. We just reminded them of how powerful they are.”

This was their get out of jail free card, just in case people complain. And complain they did. Looks like the tagline didn’t help their case and just made everything worse. They underestimated the intelligence of the public.

In all fairness though, Vodafone ‘officially’ had nothing to do with the video but as it was their brand that the case study was based on, criticism was inevitable. Come to think of it, they probably knew it was going to be released but because of their arrogance they didn’t expect there to be such a backlash.

What’s quite entertaining about all of this is that Vodafone were one of the main setbacks during the 18-day revolution. They cut off all mobile and Internet services for a period of time, making it more difficult for the protesters to gather. With no apology after the debacle, they decided to jump on the “freedom” bandwagon.

I feel sick to my stomach watching this. I work in a digital advertising agency and even though the revolution was without a doubt 30-40% digital, we try our utmost best not to ride the wave because in all honesty, we had nothing to do with the revolution. Brands and companies like Vodafone and JWT are taking the word “capitalize from” to a whole new level.

JWT MENA since apologized for what the Cairo branch has done. Vodafone on the other hand refused to apologize, and adamantly took the "it's got nothing to do with us" stance. It took me about 45 minutes to find a link to the video as they were all removed from sites such as YouTube, Veetle and DailyMotion under the request of Vodafone. Unfortunately for both, the damage was done and I honestly believe that whatever they do, they won't be able to bury the hatchet. Egyptians forgive but don't forget.

Finally, I would like to give a shout out to our 'savor' Wael Ghoniem.

He needs to be quiet.

He praised the commerical throughout the revolution and now after the case study was released, he provided us with a massive turnaround, condemning it.
He was criticized (and rightly so) for trying to take all the credit for how the revolution panned out and now Vodafone/JWT are doing the same.

So just for one last time:

I feel sick to my stomach watching this.

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