The advertisement opens with the Vodafone Logo accompanied by on-screen text which reads “Power to the way we watch today”. A male voiceover informs us that:
“The way we watch TV has changed”.
The on-screen text reads:
“40 a month for 6 months, then 80 a month. Subject to availability.18 month contract. Minimum Vodafone broadband connection speed 28mpbs. Extra box provided. Sky cinema is an incurring additional monthly charge. T&C applies”.
We then see a young girl and an older lady sitting side by side on a couch watching a movie. The writing on the television screen informs us that the movie they are watching is on ‘Sky Cinema’ and is entitled ‘The Holiday’. The scene they are viewing is that of a man and woman kissing. The older lady appears to be overcome by the scene she is watching; she breathes deeply and pats her chest. The young girl glances from side to side at the Lady. The Lady breathes even more deeply. The young girl get up from the couch and says “I am going to watch it in my room”. The older lady continues to pat her chest and pull at the collar of her blouse as if she is overheated.
The male voiceover continues as follows:
“You have the power to escape embarrassment, we have wireless multi room so you can.
Vodafone TV and broadband for the way we watch today”.
The on-screen text reads accompanied again by the Vodafone Logo reads:
“Vodafone power to you. Search Vodafone │TV & Broadband”.
The common theme running through the 10 complaints received was that the advertisement was offensive and of a sexual nature, with the grandmother being sexually aroused by the film she was watching. Some complainants considered the older lady and young girl to be grandmother and granddaughter and that the grandmother was embarrassing her granddaughter by having such a reaction to what she was viewing on-screen. Some complainants also considered the advertisement to be ageist while one complainant considered the advertisement to be offensive to both young and old with the grandmother being portrayed in a very poor light and the granddaughter being portrayed as being intolerant of her grandmother’s behaviour.
The advertisers confirmed that the story was centred on a grandmother and granddaughter scenario where they were enjoying watching television together until an ‘embarrassing’ scene happened. They considered that most families had experienced such a moment.
They said the premise behind their advertising had been to promote one of their TV’s key features – Wireless Multiroom, which enabled numerous people to have access to Vodafone TV from different rooms within the same house and thus avoid embarrassing situations as outlined above.
The advertisers said it had never been their intention to disrespect the grandmother or the elderly in more general terms nor had their advertising, in their opinion, portrayed the grandmother’s behaviour in an inappropriate fashion. The said the girl depicted was not disgusted by her grandmother; she was embarrassed for herself. They considered that the scene which unfolded demonstrated an intergenerational experience that many families could relate to.
In addressing the main areas of concern expressed by the complainants, and taking the relevant sections of the Code into account, the advertisers made the following points:
Code 3.16: Humour and satire used to ridicule the elderly – they did not believe their advertising was ageist or ridiculed the elderly and pointed out that this had never been their intent. They said the grandmother in question was not awkward or embarrassed; she was simply enjoying the movie, and had no issue with the kissing scene. Neither did they believe that she was being ridiculed.
Code 3.17: Not respecting the dignity of a person, thereby causing offence on the grounds of age. Vodafone said they did not agree that the granddaughter was being disrespectful to her grandmother either explicitly or by implication. They said the young girl had left the room to watch the movie alone, where she would be more comfortable due to her own feelings of awkwardness. The granddaughter’s reaction, they said, was a typical reaction which took place in sitting rooms all over the country.
Code 3.20: Exploitation of Sexuality/use of coarseness – the advertisers did not believe that their advertising was distasteful in its use of sexuality. There had been no intention on their part to suggest that the grandmother was sexually aroused by the scene she was viewing. They said their aim had been to reflect a common truth that watching any form of romance or sex scene with someone of a different generation within a family can at times be awkward. In the case to hand the said it was the granddaughter who had encountered the feeling of awkwardness.
In conclusion the advertisers said they prided themselves in their commitment to diversity and serving a wide spectrum across society. They said it had never been their intention to portray either character in a bad light or to cause offence with their advertising. They said likewise it had not been their intention to portray the behaviour of the grandmother in a sexual manner and their intention had been to portray the behaviour of the young girl as being the normal reaction of any young teenager given the circumstances.
Conclusion: Complaints not upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response. They considered that while the reaction of the grandmother may have been portrayed in an over the top fashion that it had never been the intention of the advertisers to sexualise her role in their marketing communication.
The Committee noted that the advertisers were depicting an intergenerational embarrassing situation and concluded that the advertising had not breached the requirements of the Code.
ACTION REQUIRED: No further action was required in this case.