Cell C forced to pull 99c ads
The mobile operator has been forced to withdraw radio and television advertisements after rival MTN lodged complaints with the Advertising Standards Authority. By Craig Wilson.
Saved under Editor's pick, News
Tags: Advertising Standards Authority, ASA, Cell C, Clear Copy, MTN
The authority has instructed Cell C to withdraw the ads.
The first target of MTN’s ire was a television advertisement featuring a man looking at his mobile phone and complaining about being “out of the zone” and another man slapping the phone out of his hand before extolling the virtues of Cell C’s new “99c For Real” packages.
MTN submitted that the two advertisements — the other one was for radio — disparage its “Zone” discounted calling product. It argued that the product is well known and that consumers would immediately recognise Cell C’s reference to it.
In reply, Cell C’s advertising agency, Clear Copy, argued that the word “zone” was used within the “ordinary meaning of the word”. The authority disagreed. It also found that the Cell C radio ad disparaged MTN’s products and was therefore in breach of a clause of the code of advertising practice.
The clause in question states that “advertisements should not attack, discredit or disparage other products, services, advertisers or advertisements directly or indirectly” and that “comparisons highlighting a weakness in an industry or product will not necessarily be regarded as disparaging when the information is factual and in the public interest”.
The radio advertisement in question contains the following dialogue: “Some people can only make calls from Zone 1 eKasi to Zone 3 for cheaper, only one day of the week?” MTN argued that this constituted disparaging remarks about its “Zone” product and its “Mahala Thursdays” promotion.
MTN Zone is a price plan that offers various discounts to consumers based on their location, the time of day and the volume of traffic on the network. The “Mahala Thursdays” promotion offers customers discounts of 50% of the value of a recharge voucher if it is purchased on a Thursday.
The advertisement also included the phrase “ayo, yo, yo, yo, yo”, which MTN said was a reference to its slogan, “Ayoba”.
MTN argued that the advertisement was factually inaccurate because it conflated the two offerings and because the MTN Zone product was available every day. It also took exception to the phrase, “Yeah, I said it”, which it argued was most often used in circumstances where someone made a controversial statement and was unapologetic about it.
“It is clear that the respondent’s disparagement is not incidental but rather a direct, deliberate and purposeful intent to disparage MTN’s products,” MTN said in its submission to the advertising authority.
In its response on behalf of Cell C, Clear Copy dismissed MTN’s claims, saying the advertisements did not make reference to any specific MTN offers and that was the meaning that MTN itself gave to the words used in the ads that was potentially disparaging.
The authority found that, given that MTN is the only operator that uses the term “Zone” in its offerings, and because no other operator has a single-day special and given the similarity of some of the phrasing to MTN’s slogan, a “hypothetical reasonable person” would take the advertisements to be referring to MTN and its products.
Cell C has been ordered to withdraw the offending ads immediately and may not use them again in their current format. However, the operator said on Tuesday that the ruling has no impact as it has already stopped flighting the ads in question. But, it says, “Cell C disagrees with the principle of the Advertising Standards Authority’s findings and we will therefore be appealing the decision.” — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media