ASA clears Vodafone's Martin Freeman robbery ad following complaint from EE

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has given the all clear to a Vodafone ad which featured actor Martin Freeman in a robbery scenario following complaints from members of the public and rival EE.

The complaints were centered around claims the ad "misleadingly" implied that only Vodafone customers could make calls to the emergency services in areas where there was no mobile network signal, and that this was like to cause "fear and distress" to the public.

It's not known if EE made one complaint or two, but the ASA did not uphold any of the complaints made.

The spot in question aired in August 2017 and showed Freeman being approached by a robber in an underground car park. A woman was then shown surreptitiously suggesting to calling the police, to which the Hobbit actor replied: “We’ll never get reception down here”.

He then looked confused as the police arrived, to which the woman stated: “I’m on Vodafone”. A close up of the phone was shown, showing full 'four bars' signal. A voiceover at the end of the commercial stated: "Outstanding indoor coverage on our most reliable network ever."

Vodafone argued that the ad was meant to be funny, rather than a serious or realistic portrayal of an emergency situation, arguing that any claims around its indoor coverage or "four bars" of signal didn't draw comparisons with rivals.

On this basis the regulator said the ad was not misleading. It said it believed viewers would recognise it as a comedic scenario.

"While we considered that advertisers should take particular care with an ad’s tone and message when making reference to contacting the emergency services, we did not consider that, in this case, the ad’s message would cause distress among the public. We therefore concluded that the ad was not harmful," the ASA asserted.

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