When Marketingweb received the press release about the ASA ordering Cell C to stop using the slogan “power to you”, we were interested to see why the industry is up in arms – once again – about the cellular provider’s campaigns.
Sandra Gordon, CEO of Wag The Dog publishers, says: “It’s a great campaign. It’s clever and gets attention.” So why has Cell C “once again fallen foul of the law by trying to misappropriate the new slogan of one of the world’s biggest mobile service providers”, as the release indicates?
Apparently, this time Cell C has been reprimanded by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for “hijacking” Vodafone and Vodacom’s slogan “power to you”. It determined that the company had “exploited the advertising goodwill that Vodafone and Vodacom had gained with the slogan; and that it had copied them”. Cell C has been ordered to stop using the slogan forthwith.
In December 2010, Cell C ran a commercial that ended with the words, “Power to you. Cell C. The power is in your hands”. It had started using the slogan in August last year, when its new advertising campaign was rolled out.
The press statement says that Vodafone, however, had already launched its new global tagline “power to you” in a number of countries in Europe and the Middle East in September 2009, as part of an international campaign on the Internet, in print and broadcasting. Vodafone owns a 65% majority stake in Vodacom and its use of the slogan “power to you” was extended to South Africa during early 2010.
“Despite Vodafone and Vodacom’s clear interest in and prior use of ‘power to you’, Cell C started using the identical tagline at the end of last year, claiming that it somehow wanted to build goodwill through the whole ‘power’ concept,” says Herman Blignaut, partner at intellectual property law specialist Spoor & Fisher. “There is no doubt that Cell C was aware of Vodafone’s international ‘power to you’ campaign before embarking on an identical campaign itself.”
Asked for comment, Lars P Reichelt, Cell C CEO, says: “We are puzzled by the ASA’s ruling on the use of the term ‘Power to you’ in our advertising, as Cell C was the first company to apply for this slogan to be registered as a trademark in South Africa.
“The ASA has found in favour of Vodafone – which is an international company – over Cell C – which is a South African company – in our own territory; even though we strongly doubt whether South African consumers would recognise ‘power to you’ as being associated with Vodafone. We are studying the ruling and will decide on our next steps soon.”
I, for one, did not know that “Power to you” belonged to Vodafone or, by extension, Vodacom. I’m also wondering whether previous “issues” with Cell C’s advertising campaigns have created a situation where the industry is waiting to pounce, regardless of what Cell C does.
Dianne Bayley is the editor of MarketingWeb.