CAIRO: Advertising agency JWT Cairo asserted that a controversial video suggesting that its campaign for Vodafone Egypt contributed to the revolution is not a commercial, but was rather a part of a 20-minute presentation demonstrating the importance of cultural relevance and local insights, according to Amal Elmasri, JWT Cairo chief executive officer.
The four-minute video, circulated widely on social media, said that Vodafone’s “Power to You” campaign that was launched on their website www.kowetna.com, “reminded Egyptians how powerful they are.”
“The film included an edit of a Vodafone commercial that aired in December 2010, almost a month before the revolution took place,” Elmasri said, “At no point did JWT or Vodafone claim that they had anything to do with starting the revolution, in fact, the film clearly states: ‘we did not send people to the streets. We did not start the revolution’ as a clear disclaimer.”
JWT MENA also tweeted about the video explaining that it is “not related [to] Vodafone Egypt but done by JWT Cairo for presentation purposes and not an ad. We apologize to everyone.”
Vodafone Egypt also denied responsibility for the video. In a press statement, Hatem Dowidar, CEO of Vodafone Egypt, confirmed that the company does not have any connection to this video and had no prior knowledge of its production or posting on the internet.
Dowidar added that Vodafone Egypt is part of a global company that has strict policies refraining associating the brand name with any political or religious affairs of any country in which it operates.
He further clarified that this video was produced by JWT for its internal use and not for public display, adding that Vodafone has never used this video and is not responsible for its messages or claims.
The controversial video shows tweets by Wael Ghonim which read “Great ad you guys simply proved that you can be inspiring and enlightening (not funny and silly) and win hearts of the people.”
It also states that the campaign was done “to inspire and remind Egyptians that everyone has power” and shows that the campaign’s outdoor ads were placed in key locations, with an image of the ad in Tahrir Square.
The video closes with the lines “We did not send people to the streets…we did not start the revolution…we only reminded Egyptians how powerful they are.”
The video stirred up a firestorm on social media websites, with users tweeting and posting comments on YouTube expressing their anger at Vodafone and JWT.
In a blog post titled “Vodafone riding the revolution wave,” the ‘I hate Vodafone Egypt,’ blog, which was created after Vodafone cut off services during the January 25 protests, commented on the video saying “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.”
“It is not only arrogant and obnoxious and offensive, it is delusional, when that agency is advertising for one of the mobile companies that took part in the communication blackout that Egypt experienced; Vodafone, the very one that sent us those pro-government messages, seems to think they can play around the timing of an ad that had nothing to do with anything but pure market competition,” the blog post read.
Ghonim also commented on Twitter saying, “Last @VodafoneEgypt AD by JWT is unethical. It gives the credit to Vodafone for the revolution! And used my name/posts without permission!”
The video was first posted on JWT’s official website before it was taken down, reportedly at Vodafone’s request.