The television advertisement is accompanied by the song “Getting to know you”. In the first scene we see a man walking up the driveway of a house. He is holding a bunch of flowers in his arms. He rings the doorbell and the door is opened by a women with her young son by her side. The man bends down to the young boy’s level, asks “Dylan how are you, how are you keeping?” and introduces himself as Peter.
In the next scene the young boy is depicted taking part in a rugby match. Peter takes him to one side and through the use of a mobile phone demonstrates the correct way to pass the ball to a member of the team. The game continues and the young boy’s performance improves.
We then see the mum and her son speaking to Peter on the internet. Peter’s image appears on-screen. In the next scene Peter returns to the house, his suitcases are on the ground beside his car and he embraces the woman in the driveway. The young boy watches the scene unfolding through the window. Various scenes follow: the young boy and Peter lie on the floor watching movies; all three visit the seaside; they sit on the couch eating popcorn and Dylan and Peter fall asleep while the woman looks on contentedly.
In the final scene, we see Peter helping the young boy to do his homework, when he helps him with maths, the young boy responds “Thanks Dad”. The couple nod in acknowledgment at what has just happened and embrace affectionately. This scene is accompanied by a female voiceover who delivers the following message:
“Family life is full of firsts, embrace them all. Ireland’s fastest mobile network brings you Vodafone Gigabit Broadband and TV for €25 per month for the first six months.”
15 complaints were received in relation to the advertising. The common themes running through the complaints are as follows:
• The advertisement lacks information on the whereabouts of the boy’s biological dad and why it is necessary for him to call his mum’s new partner ‘Dad’.
• The advertisement is offensive and insensitive to fathers who do not have access to their children or to fathers who are experiencing the grief and pain of being separated from them.
• The advertisement is offensive to fathers who do not live with their children but continue to support them.
• The advertisement is offensive to children who may have had negative experiences with their mum’s new partner.
• The advertisement has the potential to incite domestic violence when a biological dad sees his son calling another man ‘Dad’.
• The advertisement is in conflict with both a child’s right to have a relationship with their father, and a father’s right to have a relationship with his child. There is no indication given as to where the boy’s biological dad may be.
The advertisers said that the public’s views were extremely important to them as all of their marketing communications are developed with a clear view of responsibility to people and the wider society.
The advertisers said that the advertisement in question formed part of a wider family focused marketing campaign entitled ‘Family Firsts’ and to be a celebration of the importance of connectivity between family members; no matter what the specific family structure may be.
In the creative planning phase of the campaign, the advertisers said they conducted extensive market research with their intended audience. This involved many different family types throughout the country, such as so-called traditional families, same-sex parent families, single-parent families and separated-parent families. They looked to understand their needs, their hopes and what motivated them. They did this with a view to understanding how Vodafone could connect and support them, while at the same time taking their likely audience into consideration and how the audience would engage with the communication to hand.
In the particular story associated with this advertisement, the advertisers said they imagined that the main boy character may not have had his biological dad in his life to call ‘Dad’. Hence the reason that the boy’s father was not in the story or part of the narrative. It had never been their intention to offend with the storyline but rather to highlight that every family structure had its own unique make up and circumstances. They pointed out that the family structure featured was just one example and was not reflective of all families across Ireland. The premise behind the advertisement was to demonstrate how Vodafone’s network could help all of the varied family types in society and help them to connect and enjoy the many “firsts” that happen in life.
In conclusion the advertisers said they greatly valued family life and reiterated their understanding that every family had their own unique make-up and it was their belief that their marketing communication had been prepared with a strong sense of responsibility to society in general. They said they had also received positive sentiment and engagement towards their advertising from members of the public.
Complaints Not Upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response. The Committee noted that there had been no reference made to the child’s biological dad in the advertising and there had been no negativity or positivity portrayed in relation to him. While accepting that not mentioning the boy’s biological dad could give rise to speculation, the Committee considered that it was not always possible to accommodate every aspect of a storyline in the air time provided to a marketing communication. The Committee considered that the young boy featured in the advertising had not portrayed any element of upset or discomfort at any time and that the decision to call his mum’s new partner ‘Dad’ had not been forced on him and appeared to come naturally to him after a period of time and sharing life experiences together.
The Complaints Committee also noted that the advertisement featured a series of vignettes which depicted a range of different common place activities and, combined with the general tone and mood of the advertisement, they considered it to be very unlikely that the content would incite domestic violence.
In the circumstances, the Committee did not consider that the advertisement had breached the Code.
No further action required in this case.
The Committee noted, however, that certain situations could give rise to sensitivities, and suggested that, in such cases, advertisers consider extending their market research and include relevant and broad stakeholder groups when developing such advertising.