Published on 3 Jun 2011 Sections , , ,

Vodafone denies using Arab Spring to sell phones

A video suggesting Vodafone inspired the revolution in Egypt is disowned by the phone giant as the firm refuses to talk about its relationship with the advertising agency behind it.

Woman using her phone to document a protest at Cairo University (Getty)

Vodafone is at the centre of criticism sparked by a video which appears to claim the mobile giant inspired the revolution in Egypt during the Arab spring.

A three-minute video includes extracts from Vodafone’s “Our Power” ad campaign, which ran in the weeks before the anti-government uprising. It closes by showing images from the protests in Tahrir Square, Cairo and claiming that Vodafone “did not send people to the streets” and “did not start the revolution”, but “only reminded Egyptians how powerful they are”.

Tweets from fans of the video, expressing how much they have been inspired by its presence across social networks, also feature.

I won’t comment on the actual relationship between ourselves and JWT. Vodafone spokesman

Prominent blogger Mohamed El-Dahshan was revealed by The Guardian to have said: “Never mind the years of activism, the protests, the decades of cumulated 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!'”

The Vodafone Group communications director told Channel 4 News: “I won’t comment on the actual relationship between ourselves and [advertising agency] JWT, that is a matter for us and JWT.

“In respect of the events when the network was closed down I think it is important to understand the circumstances surrounding this.

“We took legal advice about the instruction that we had recieved, which the other two operators had also received, and we were advised that we were legally obliged to close the network down.

“It was made very clear to us that failure to comply would have resulted in being shut down anyway.”

Vodafone restored voice services within 24 hours, and its text messaging and data services were restored within a week.

Another point of contention is the appearance in the video of Adel Emam, a well-known Egyptian actor who was initially against the anti-government protests and has come under fire for having connections to the Mubarak family.

In a statement, Hatem Dowidar, CEO of Vodafone Egypt, said that the company does not have any connection to this video and had no prior knowledge of its production or posting on the internet.

He added that Vodafone Egypt is part of a global company that has strict policies refraining from associating the brand name with any political or religious affairs of any country in which it operates.

Dowidar also said the video was produced by the JWT ad agency in Cairo for internal use and not public display. The website ihatevodafoneegypt.com noted that the video was uploaded to YouTube by JWT, and questioned why this was done if the video was only intended for JWT internal use.

The video has now been removed from YouTube.

More from Channel 4 News: Arab revolt - Middle East uprisings