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MTN My Choice Top-Up / K Muller / 630

Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Karl Muller Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
MTN Service Provider (Pty) Ltd t/a MTN & Another Respondent

28 Apr 2005

Mr Muller lodged a consumer complaint against a CNA radio commercial, for an MTN product, that was flighted on Highveld Stereo on 6 January 2005.

The commercial features a little girl telling her teacher about what she did during her holidays. The girl states, inter alia, “…I did it all on my Nokia thirty two twenty, with camera, polyphonic ringstones and games that my Mom got me on MTN’s My Choice top-up…”

COMPLAINT
The complainant submitted that the commercial:

• Encourages children to use cell-phones for non-essential purposes.

• Is manipulative as it directly undermines the social fabric by encouraging children to feel that they know more than adults.

The complainant further submitted that the respondent should be forced to issue a compensatory commercial, stressing that it does not wish to be seen to be marketing to children.

RELEVANT CLAUSES OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the complaint the following clauses of the Code were taken into account:

• Section I, Clause 1.2 – Responsibility to the consumer

• Section II, Clause 13 – Safety

• Section II, Clause 14 - Children

RESPONSE
The First Respondent submitted, inter alia, that:

  • It is not its intention to advertise to children or take advantage of them in any way.

  • The advertised products can only be purchased by adults.

  • The CNA creative team produced the commercial, and the First Respondent was not given an opportunity to approve the commercial prior to broadcast. The First Respondent can therefore not be held responsible for the advertisement that was produced in error by the CNA creative team.

  • It instructed the responsible advertising agency to withdraw the commercial immediately when the commercial was brought to its attention.

In a further response, the Second Respondent confirmed that the advertisement will not be used again in future in its current format.

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
At a meeting held on 5 April 2005 the Directorate considered the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties.

The First Respondent submitted that it instructed the responsible advertising agency to withdraw the commercial immediately when the commercial was brought to its attention. The Second Respondent confirmed that the advertisement would not be used again in future in its current format.

The Directorate accepts the above submissions as an undertaking to withdraw the commercial.

The undertaking is accepted on condition that the commercial:

  • Is withdrawn in its current format with immediate effect within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide; and

  • Is not used again in future.

The complainant has submitted that the respondent should be forced to issue a compensatory commercial, stressing that it does not wish to be seen to be marketing to children.

The Directorate is of the opinion that the advertisement in question does not warrant the imposition of sanctions as it appears ex facie that the respondent did not deliberately circumvent and/or flagrantly disregard the Code. In addition, the commercial was immediately withdrawn.

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