Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Times: Are new phone adverts ringing wrong number?
Friday, July 13, 2012 by Claudia Calleja

Some people have found the images shocking.Photo: Jason Borg

Many people, irrespective of their gender, sexuality, age or colour, have that “number one” special person in their life whom they phone or message frequently, including gay people, of course.

This is what inspired the new, debate-stirring Vodafone summer campaign that became the source of online debate, mainly because some of the billboards depict what many perceived to be gay couples.

Commenting on Facebook, people largely welcomed the campaign as refreshing and innovative. But there were also negative reactions with people finding the images shocking, a few of them threatening to stop using Vodafone’s services. The latter reaction was mainly provoked by a billboard showing two women close to each other, many taking it that they are meant to represent lesbians.

The campaign is not explicit and Vodafone insisted it was never aimed to shock anyone.

Mainly targeted at young people, it includes numerous billboards, adverts on bus shelters and buses and other forms of print material. The images depict individuals from different walks of life.

They include a woman holding her dog, two men, two women, a man and a woman and a man with many female hands on his chest.

Vodafone Malta brand executive Monique Brincau said: “These two particular girls can be anything from sisters, best friends and, yes, they could also be in a relationship.”

Even the image showing a man and a woman need not necessarily represent a couple, she said, arguing that the interpretation was subjective.

“The most important people in our lives come in all ages, forms, sizes, colours and gender and this is precisely what we wanted to bring out through the images we chose for this campaign,” she said.

Lara Parker, creative director at Redorange Image Consultant Limited, which devised the campaign for Vodafone, added: “Vodafone’s intent was to represent the Maltese society as is, with different individuals making up our community... We are living in a modern society and we never perceived that any of the images chosen were shocking… All we did… was provide visibility to a situation that already exists.”

Ms Parker argued that the aim was to design a campaign that revolved around the concept of Who is your No.1?, the most important person in your life. The company wanted to communicate that it was offering free calls and SMS to that special someone.

“Obviously, to communicate the fact that everyone has a different No.1 we consciously chose images that portrayed this message. The campaign’s aim was to steer away from local conventional forms of advertising,” Ms Parker said.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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