When, in Spring 2021, Vodafone Spain released a new advert for its unlimited home connectivity package, it received several negative comments on social media.
The advert, which shows a young girl coming out to her parents by sharing a kiss with her girlfriend via Vodafone’s home security system, received a largely positive response. But it also provoked homophobic criticism. One user asked: “Why does it have to be a lesbian? Why not a heterosexual kiss?”, while another said: “Why should my eight-year-old daughter or four-year-old son have to see something like this in a Vodafone advert?”
The answer, to Vodafone Spain’s social media team, was obvious. The advert’s aim was to illustrate technology’s ability to transform lives and bring people together. In this case, it allowed a girl to come out to her parents, when previously she had struggled to find the right words.
In the eyes of the team in Spain, a same-sex kiss should be treated no differently to a heterosexual one. It should not inspire debate or stir up anger.
“Usually, global brands don’t get involved in controversial debates,” says Roberto Tamayo, Social Media Manager at Vodafone Spain. “But this time, we decided to say: ‘enough is enough’.”
Vodafone Spain released a Tweet shortly after, making it clear that homophobia – and any other kind of discrimination – have no place at Vodafone. It read: "Given the unfortunate comments received on our last TV advert, we confirm that: yes, we made this video and we are proud, because our mission is to connect ALL people, regardless of their sexual, political, or religious orientation."
The video and subsequent Tweet were met with a huge online reaction, with “Vodafone advert” and “Vodafone advert 2021” being mentioned four times more frequently than earlier that month.
When Pride Week came along in late June, Roberto’s team was inspired to do more to tackle the issue. Bringing together Vodafone Spain employees, influencers from Spain’s LGBTQ+ community - including drag performer Arantxa Castilla-La Mancha - and the actress from the original ad, they produced a social media campaign responding to the advert’s homophobic critics and reiterating Vodafone’s commitment to equality and diversity.
The team’s boldness and creativity paid off: in terms of engagement, it was their most successful Pride social media campaign in years. “The reaction – both internally and externally - was overwhelmingly positive,” says Roberto. Just 2% of social media reactions to the campaign’s main video were negative in sentiment.
Vodafone’s competitors were also quick to support the video, with Movistar replying: “There are times when competition doesn’t exist – and this is one of those times. We join you in taking #OneStepForward.”
Global brands have an important power: to speak up for people whose voices aren’t heard. Many shy away from doing so because of the extreme polarisation of opinions on social media.
This certainly rings true for Cristina Barbosa, Vodafone Spain’s Brand Director. “Much remains to be done, and advertising is a huge part of that change,” she says. “That’s why we came up with this campaign in the first place. We want to be a brand that gives visibility, raises awareness, and gives a voice to everyone, especially those who didn’t have a voice in the past. Creating a space and starting a conversation is important, and we will continue to do so in the future.”
At Vodafone, we believe diversity makes us stronger, and we are passionate about technology’s ability to give everyone the ability to be their authentic selves – just like the girl in our ad.
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