The advertisement opens with the following on-screen text:
“Power to Picnics”
In the first scene we see a young man and woman heading out for a picnic, they approach a gate into a field and the man says:
“I think it’s this way. Beautiful isn’t it?”
The couple climb over the gate and the woman asks the man:
The man replies ‘Yeah’ and they head into the field. The couple sit down to have their picnic, suddenly a bull appears in front of them and stares at them. The man jumps up quickly, points to the bull, turns to the woman and says:
“I got this.” He says ‘leave’ to the bull.
When the man jumps up the following text appears on screen:
“90% population county coverage calculated by Republic of Ireland census data dated 30/03/2016. Access to 4G subject to handset, plan and coverage. For verification see Vodafone.ie/network”.
The bull refuses to move. The man then pulls out his mobile phone and types in the question – “How to calm a bull?” he turns to his female companion and informs her that there is “no signal”.
His companion pulls out her phone and plays a video of a dog barking. The bull looks at it and walks away. The following text appears on screen:
“Only Vodafone 4G covers 90% of people in every county”.
A male voiceover delivers the following message:
“Vodafone 4G to the rescue. You have the power to be a bull whisperer and we have the 4G coverage to help. Vodafone. Power to you”.
All four complainants considered the advertising to be making light of the fact that bulls are very dangerous animals. The complainants said that to infer that a bull would just walk away on seeing a dog barking on a mobile phone was ridiculous and one complainant said that it would take more than this action to deter an agitated bull and the appropriate action would be for those concerned to have exited the field as soon as possible.
One complainant said that the advertisement was inappropriate at a time when The Health and Safety Authority and farming organisations were trying to promote farm safety and reduce accidents. He also noted that the couple in the advertisement did not appear to have permission to picnic on the land in question and as such were creating the impression that it was acceptable to trespass on land without authorisation from the land owner.
One complainant who had survived an attack by a bull several years ago said that she had been left in chronic pain and disablement and for the advertisers to make light of such farm accidents was disgraceful.
The advertisers agreed that bulls can be dangerous and they pointed out that the couple in the advertisement had mistakenly and not deliberately climbed into a field with a bull. They said their advertisement did not encourage people to trust bulls and they rejected this assertion. They said that while it was advisable to leave an area where there is a bull present, that it was the immediate presence of the bull in the advertisement to hand that brought the humorous element to the execution. They said that the purpose of the scene had been to highlight that Vodafone’s 4G coverage was available to more of the population than customers of other operators, even though they had not identified any other operator in their advertising.
The advertisers reiterated that their intention had been to make their advertising humorous, and they had never sought to encourage people to knowingly climb into fields containing livestock. They said the issue of entering farmland, without permission, had not been addressed either way as it was not relevant to the purpose of their advertising. They considered that their advertising had in fact identified why people needed to be careful and mindful of livestock and entering land where they may be present. They said they were satisfied that the majority would see the humorous side of the advertisement, and while they acknowledged that one complainant’s personal experience of an accident with a bull had led her to be distressed by the advertisement, that the majority of people would not have viewed the advertisement in this way.
In conclusion the advertisers said they were happy that the majority of the public recognised the ‘dramatic effect’ of the situation portrayed in their advertising and that the actions of the couple had not condoned dangerous behaviour or unsafe practices. They said that the main purpose of their advertising had been to depict the strength of their network and in particular their 4G coverage. Finally the advertisers said that the advertisement had now been withdrawn from broadcast.
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee accepted that while it may not have been the intention of the advertisers to condone dangerous behaviour, they were concerned that the advertisement made light of a potentially very dangerous situation. The Committee noted that there had been many farm accidents where a bull had killed or maimed its owner or others who happened to be in its vicinity. The Committee concluded that it was irresponsible on the part of the advertisers to use the scene involved for ‘dramatic effect’ and in the circumstances they considered the advertising to be in breach of Sections 3.3 and 3.24(a) of the Code.
The Committee noted that the advertising was currently off air and recommended that it should not be shown in the same format again.