Vodafone Egypt Nightmare: A Bitter lesson about hashtags!

social media failure vodafone


social media failure vodafoneWe still see companies paying a huge price for not understanding the massive role Social Media plays on a brand!

The latest victim was Vodafone Egypt; they still didn’t recover from the last firestorm that had hit them late December on the unlimited internet campaign, to just get in another tornado caused by a recent video clip entitled “Power to you”.

Vodafone’s “power to you” campaign Video clip suggested (or at least the Egyptian people thought so) that Vodafone inspired the uprising in Egypt this year! The video goes on to show images from protest rallies in Cairo’s Tahrir Square before claiming: “We didn’t send people to the streets, we didn’t start the revolution we only reminded Egyptians how powerful they are.” That tagline made many Egyptian’s furious and accused Vodafone of actually “riding the revolutionary bandwagon” and insulting the integrity of the revolution.

The Video was uploaded late April on YouTube and then picked up. The negative criticism blowout on the web spread across social media websites and thousands of comments started in blogs, Twitter and Facebook; there was even a website that been dedicated to the subject! Additionally, Well-known bloggers including Wael Ghunaim started criticizing the video, thus more and more people heard of it! The clip spread like fire and there was no coming back!

Why did it reach that much of extent? how come a big brand such as Vodafone put itself in such a situation and react that late?

The only action was removing the clip from YouTube (people already downloaded it) and the claim that it was its advertising agency fault; and that they weren’t aware of it neither a clearance was granted for the video to have public view! however, the Video listing on the Lynx awards (advertising awards festival) meant that the agency definitely took their client approval on the video!! This only made people more furious!

Now, how could Vodafone handled it? Of course it had to do with monitoring the brand in social media, listening what is being said about the brand and start a transparent conversation before the criticism build up and avoid the big fuss! Secondly, denying such a video didn’t make people feel any better, instead, a genuine & honest apology from Vodafone would have calm down the good Egyptian people (many examples of CEO’s apologizing online for customers) additionally, Vodafone definitely needs a new organizational structure that includes full-time online community managers, but this topic shall be shared in an upcoming post.

It seems that brands in the MENA region still didn’t get that they are not immune from harmful backlash on the web! Don’t they want to dumb their out-of-date believes and join the conversation online? Brands should respond quickly to negative PR on the web in the right ways, not run away from it.

Your customers are your advocates on the web, and they will point out the good and the bad things out to the public, they will talk about it and they have the tools that give them the full power to shout their opinions & experiences out loud.

In this age of connectivity and instant communication that we live in, no brand can afford to stop paying attention to what’s being said about it online… 24/7 !!

Amer is the founder of Hashtag, a new social media agency that specializes in humanizing brands on the web in the Middle East. 

website: www.hashtag-me.com

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An ex Adman who transformed successfully to a Socialnomic, Avid watcher of Brands Cool social efforts on the web in the Middle East. Worked in different international agencies on various big brands like STC, Ford, Danone and Microsoft. Currently working on building the best local Social Media Agency in the Middle East. Hashtag Social Media Agency, www.hashtag-me.com Besides being social, he loves reading, traveling and diving. Would love to hear from you: amer.massimi@hashtag-me.com


  1. I guess it’s important to note that the video in question was not made by Vodafone. Rather it was made by JWT – their creative agency behind the campaign. This is not said in defense of Vodafone or JWT.

    JWT’s retort is “it’s a video for internal usage, it was never meant to come out”, yet it was on their YouTube channel, and their corporate website. Also, JWT took this campaign to Cannes film festival, to show off their “achievement”. Vodafone didn’t know about that too?

    Vodafone’s explanation is even worse “we didn’t know that video existed in the first place”. What does that say about their brand management and monitoring?

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