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What's the nature of your emergency, Vodafone?

Oh, you've dialled the wrong number for ad fibs, rules ASA

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Vodafone has been chided for misleading customers with a telly ad that wrongly implied that the majority of Blighty's emergency services' staff personally subscribed to the mobile operator.

Britain's ad watchdog agreed with three out of four complaints submitted by the parent company of rival O2 - Telefonica UK.

The TV commercial in question showed a fire-fighting scene that featured a female actor's voiceover fretting about her hubby's dangerous day job.

Her comments were followed by a statement from Voda with the claim:

77 per cent of the emergency services use Vodafone. Vodafone, power to our emergency services.

But Telefonica successfully challenged the assertions on three grounds. The telco complained that Vodafone had misleadingly suggested that the majority of police, doctors, nurses and fire-fighters in the country used the mobile operator in a personal, not professional capacity, the ASA noted.

The ad regulator also agreed that the claim itself was unclear.

Vodafone failed to convince the ASA to dismiss most of the gripes from Telefonica.

The watchdog said:

We considered that the ambiguity of the claim, and the fact the ad focused on a fireman's personal relationship, as opposed to the use of telephony in a professional capacity, could lead a number of consumers to believe that 77 per cent of emergency service personnel had chosen Vodafone as their private mobile telephone provider.

We understood, however, that the claim related to the percentage of emergency service authorities that used, and were therefore billed for, any Vodafone services, rather than to personnel who used Vodafone services for their private usage.

Because we had concerns that a number of viewers might understand from the ad that 77 per cent of emergency services personnel used Vodafone services for their private usage, whereas we understood that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading.

Voda was told by the ASA to stop telling fibs about its subscriber base and ordered not to screen the ads on British TV again in their current form. ®

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