A number of viewers took issue with the ad which shows a couple scaling a gate before settling down to picnic in a field, only to be confronted by a bull. The man takes command and uses his mobile phone to search for the answer to “how to calm a bull”. However, he has no signal and his companion hands him her Vodafone network phone displaying a video of a barking dog and the bull walks away.
The company’s moral of the story is that “only Vodafone 4G covers 90% of people in every county” and “you have the power to be a bull whisperer and we have the 4G coverage to help.”.
The ad was criticised earlier this year by the Health and Safety Authority, which said that bringing a dog into a field was likely to provoke a bull — although the provocative effect of a virtual dog is unclear.
Viewers who complained about the ad to the Advertising Standards Authority included a woman who survived a bull attack but was left in chronic pain and disablement.
Another complainant said the ad was inappropriate at a time when farming organisations were trying to promote farm safety.
Overall, complainants felt Vodafone was making light of the fact that bulls are dangerous and that it was ridiculous to infer a bull would walk away from a video of a barking dog.
Vodafone’s main defence was that the ad was designed to be humourous and that the majority would view it as such. It said the main purpose of the ad had been to depict the strength of its network and, in particular, its 4G coverage.
The Advertising Standards Authority said it accepts it may not have been Vodafone’s intention “to condone dangerous behaviour” but noted that there had been “many farm accidents where a bull had killed or maimed its owner or others who happened to be in its vicinity”, thus making the advertisers “irresponsible”.
The watchdog upheld the complaints and said the ad should not be shown again in the same format. Vodafone said the ad had been withdrawn from broadcast.