Vodafone apologises after “sinister” marketing campaign

Beibhinn Thorsch

“I wonder what made them think they could use my image or Sinead's without our permission as part of a promotion campaign,” said Jill Kerby.

Vodafone Ireland’s latest marketing campaign has been referred to as “creepy” and “sinister” after journalists were sent framed pictures of themselves that appear to be smashed on October 3rd.

Vodafone has issued an apology to two of the journalists who were sent the pictures, and who subsequently sparked media backlash on Twitter.

One of the recipients Sinead Ryan, who covers consumer and finance issues, described the campaign as a “serious PR misstep”, later tweeting: “Speechless…Don’t care what you’re advertising; I had a stalker once who sent me one too. For real. Did this look ‘cute’ at your planning meeting??” alongside a photo of the package she received.

Her sentiments were reiterated by fellow recipient Jill Kerby, a personal finance journalist, who tweeted: “this…thing… arrived at my old office” and “…women journalists love getting framed pictures of themselves that someone has stamped on.”

In response to her original Tweet concerning the incident, Kerby said: “I wonder what made them think they could use my image or Sinead’s without our permission as part of a promotion campaign.”

In the apology issued by Vodafone, they wrote: “Our intention was not to cause any distress. The frame and accompanying information leaflet were intended to highlight the launch of our new fix & go screen repair service.”

Vodafone also say they issued a private apology to the two journalists individually, saying that “Again, we very much apologise if this has caused upset.”

Vodafone said that they wished to show the association between smart phone photos, such as selfies they were trying to replicate, and shattered glass screens and the service they intended to promote.

There was also some positive reaction to the received pictures, with others describing the photos as “smashing” and “cool”.

The photos used seem to have been taken from Google images and the social media pages of the journalists involved.

The media package received by journalists was an extension of advertisements being placed in participating shop windows, where similar vinyl overlays as to what were used in the marketing package photos were placed over the windows, to create a shattered glass effect.

This is not Vodafone’s first misstep with PR stunts. In 2002 they were made to apology for sending two streakers who were naked except for a Vodafone logo on their back, onto the pitch during a rugby match between Australia and New Zealand.


Beibhinn Thorsch

Image Credit: Sinead Ryan and Jill Kerby