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Vodafone’s Martin Freeman ‘love us or leave us’ advert banned

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

A Vodafone advert featuring Sherlock actor Martin Freeman pleading to leave his mobile contract has been banned after it was found to be ‘misleading’.

In the advert Freeman says he “hasn’t got the strength to keep arguing” and wants to leave. Viewers are led to believe he wants to leave his girlfriend, but he is actually on the phone to a mobile network agent who informs him he can’t leave as he’s still within his contract, unless he wants to pay a penalty.

A voiceover then says: “Breaking up’s never easy, but unlike other networks, Vodafone has a 30-day Service Guarantee, so if you don’t love us, you can leave us.”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 11 complaints saying the advert could mislead people in thinking they could leave the contract at any time, whereas in fact, they can only do so within the first 30 days of starting a contract.

Vodafone said customers are familiar with their rights to try a service for a period of time and would know the advert referred to the first 30 days of the contract start date.

But the ASA upheld the complaints and said that the difficulty Freeman’s character faced in wanting to leave his mobile contract implied he had been with the provider for some time. The advert also didn’t offer viewers any more information about how its 30-day service guarantee worked.

The ASA ruling stated: “We considered the ad left it ambiguous as to when it applied, and because of the scenario presented, suggested consumers were entitled to exercise the guarantee at any time.

“While we acknowledged Vodafone’s reference to the small print which referred to the terms and conditions on the website, we did not consider that this altered the impression presented by the ad.

“Therefore, because the ad implied that consumers were entitled to exercise the guarantee at any time and that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.”

The ad must not appear again in its current form.

A Vodafone spokesperson said: “Our ‘love us or leave us’ 30-day service guarantee is the best in the market. We already make clear that the 30 days is from the start of a customer’s contract in our terms and conditions, and will also make sure this is totally clear in our marketing.”