Vodafone loses face after taking credit for Egyptian revolution

Lina El-Wardani , Thursday 2 Jun 2011

The telecommunications company's new campaign in which it suggests that it inspired the Egyptian revolution provokes a furious backlash

The advertisement that was released yesterday caused a lot of anger on social network websites overnight especially since Vodafone like all three mobile companies in Egypt cut Egyptians from the world for seven days during the revolution.

On 28 January, the Mubarak regime shut down mobile services and cut off the internet for almost a week.

And after following the regime’s orders without notifying its customers, Vodafone is now suggesting it contributed to the revolution.

The notorious advertisement starts with the words “for 30 years Egyptians have felt powerless, on January 1st Vodafone launches (Power to you) in Egypt.

“How do you empower the powerless? The idea was to create a campaign using real people to inspire and remind Egyptians that everyone has power.”

The advertisement goes on to ask people on the street “do you have power?” to which two people reply: “What do you mean by power?”

Then we hear the voice of veteran actor Adel Imam (who has been criticised as a mouthpiece of the regime for his comments about protesters during the uprising) from an old advertisement saying, “one’s move can turn the world around... and this is the power of 80 million ones.”

The advertisement then goes on to say that Vodafone launched its “Our power” campaign on 1 January, which is an advertisement and a documentary film, then it suggests that social media takes over, and there is a clip of an internet page where Wael Ghonim tweets on 31 December that Vodafone is great and “simply proved that you can be inspiring and enlightening.”

The campaign suggests that it received 100,000 hits and gained over 500,000 fans in the three days after its launch in early January.

The advertisement’s ending is even more provocative with dozens of photos from Tahrir Square during the revolution with the words: “We didn’t send people to the streets, we didn’t start the revolution, we only reminded Egyptians how powerful they are.”

Immediately after the campaign appeared, critics used Twitter to denounce the advert, with many going as far as declaring they will cancel their Vodafone accounts.

For Adel it went too far. “I will cancel my vodafone number,” he tweeted, “I didn’t forgot those who died.” Sara said: ”the ridiculous vodafone ad. was the board broken?coz you sure cant [sic] learn to ride the wave!”

The campaign backfired, according to Maha who tweeted: “Taking Credit for Egyptian REVOLUTION! This is BAD PR. What were they thinking???” Shahinaz says: “How dare you say you contributed to the revolution, you blocked our communications hypocrites."

Many simply described the advertisement as "shameless."

Vodafone Egypt denies it has any link with the advert, emphasising on its official Twitter account that it is only responsible for the videos on its official YouTube page. This official denial was to no avail as the advert was presented on the Vodafone-JWT.com website  

Yesterday a website and a Twitter account were launched in the name “I hate Vodafone Egypt.” The website, using the same logo and colour scheme as Vodafone, asks visitors why they hate the telecommunications company and to describe their experiences with it.

The website also includes blogs, of which is called “Vodafone’s biggest mistake yet.”

“It is really quite sad, and pathetic, when an advertising agency helps a client ride the revolutionary wave and manipulate it, but it's an entirely different ballgame when they dare to even hint at the idea that their client had anything to do with it,” writes the blog’s creator.

“Vodafone, who sent its customers pro-government messages, seems to think they can play around [with] the timing of an ad that had nothing to do with anything but pure market competition,” the blog post continues.

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