Vodafone Egypt under fire for ad

June 3, 2011 at 8:57 AM
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CAIRO, June 3 (UPI) -- Activists are criticizing Vodafone Egypt for an ad that suggests the company inspired the country's uprising, when it, in fact, shut down on government orders.

Pro-democracy activists say Vodafone and other mobile phone services followed Egyptian government orders, implementing a communications blackout at the height of the revolution that resulted in the resignation of longtime President Hosni Mubarak, the British newspaper The Guardian reported Friday.

Activists called the commercial a "sickening" attempt to increase sales by "riding the revolutionary bandwagon" and insulted the hundreds who died in the uprising.

The three-minute commercial includes clips from a Vodafone ad campaign, "Our Power," which was launched three weeks before the uprising. The video shows images from protest rallies in Cairo's Tahrir Square before claiming: "We didn't send people to the streets, we didn't start the revolution … We only reminded Egyptians how powerful they are."

"Apparently this tag line inspired people to take the streets," blogger Mohamed el-Dahshan posted. "I mean, nevermind the years of activism, the protests, the decades of culminated grievances, the terrible economic situation, the trampled political freedoms, the police brutality, the torture, etc. Nah -- we just watched a Vodafone ad, and thought: 'Hey! We're powerful! Let's topple the president!'"

Vodafone has distanced itself from the commercial, produced by the international marketing firm JWT, The Guardian said.

"The company does not have any connection to this video and had no prior knowledge of its production or posting on the Internet," Vodafone Egypt Chief Executive Officer Hatem Dowidar said.

The commercial was posted on the public Web site of JWT, which said the video was for "internal use" and has since been removed.

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