Vodafone: “It’s Your Time”… unless you’re Dark, Short & Plump

I don’t watch a lot of TV these days, so I only saw Vodafone’s ‘3030 Love Story’ campaign last weekend, during a trip to the cinema. The ad is unlike your typical Ghanaian ad because two things have clearly been thrown at it:

a. Money
I’m guessing Vodafone’s marketing team have a larger budget than your average Ghanaian advertiser.

b. Creativity
When money is thrown at something, certain artistic standards are expected in return… unless the person throwing the money has no artistic sensibilities, which sadly explains a lot of our advertising.

I’m usually happy when I see creativity at work, but my enthusiasm was somewhat dampened after my companion drew my attention to… well, see it for yourself.

In case you can’t stream fast enough, here are a few choice lines:

Boy: “So tell me a little bit about you”
Girl: “Hmm. Well, I’m dark skinned… I’m not too tall. And I’m plump. Do you still want to meet me?”
Boy: “Yes, of course. True beauty is on the inside. And you sound nice too.”
Girl: “Good. Then meet me at that new restaurant in 30 minutes…”

Let me break it down:

The slim, light-skinned girl of average height – supposedly tired of boys throwing themselves at her for her good looks – describes herself as the opposite of what she is. Strangely perhaps, this is not my problem. I’ll give the advertisers the benefit of the doubt and assume she wasn’t implying that her opposite is ugly.

Merely different.

My problem is the reaction of the rest of the cast.

1) the boy’s friend/sister/whatever:
Jaw drops and she begs:Pleeease! She’s really beautiful!

Vodafone’s ad team decide they haven’t gone far enough (maybe they want to be edgy and subversive…) and get the boy’s dark-skinned friend – who should have known better – to imply that anyone described as dark-skinned, of average height and plump must be hideously ugly, hence the need to stress that this one is actually “… really beautiful.

Everyone is entitled to their taste and it could well be that the boy’s character simply dislikes dark-skinned, plump girls of average height. Maybe his friend/sister/whatever has a long-standing crush on him and his persistent love of lighter-skinned girls has lowered her self-esteem.

2) the Boy:
Yes, of course. True beauty is on the inside. And you sound nice too.

The Vodafone ad team decide to push the envelope even further by having homeboy imply that if you are dark-skinned, of average height and plump, you are only capable of having inner beauty. Your only other possible saving grace is if you have a nice voice. You poor, poor thing.

3) the Girl:
Good. Then meet me at that new restaurant in 30 minutes…

After showing some intelligence by putting the boy (who clearly needed to be screened) to a test, homegirl fails by not recognizing homeboy’s stupidity and awards said stupidity with a date, failing to show solidarity with her darker-skinned, average heighted (although admittedly not plump) friend.

Now I have a problem with homegirl.

In a way, I do not blame the advertisers. Vodafone are a foreign company who arrived in Ghana just over a year ago and are probably still trying to figure us all out. The people I blame are the Ghanaians who were on the ad team. If there were any. They should have known better and should have said something. Unless they did and were told to shut up by a non-Ghanaian supervisor. Oops.

In a sea of annoyingly uncreative and patronizing corporate adverts, I have actually been mildly impressed with Vodafone’s track record. Their last ad – with a boy’s mom hearing the popping of champagne over the phone and accurately deducing that her son was having a house party in her absence – was inaccurate (no one has house parties like that out here. YOUR PARENTS WOULD KILL YOU… as in, actual murder…) but aspirational (even though you can’t have a house party doesn’t mean you don’t want to have one. God knows I did back then…) and, above all, it was well-executed and genuinely funny:

The Love Story ad is however not-as-harmless a piece of fun. In fact, it’s aspiration gone wrong. Why is it that whenever Ghanaians do something ‘middle class’, it always has to be pretentious, condescending, illogical and borrowed from elsewhere? You see it in our films  (I won’t name names: I have sincere hopes that a certain someone’s material will improve…) and in some music videos too (I’m looking at you, ‘Borgar: great tune, slick video, but ultimately defeats the purpose of the song for the sake of slickness).

A for effort. F for execution.

Go listen to ‘Shades’ by Wale.

9 thoughts on “Vodafone: “It’s Your Time”… unless you’re Dark, Short & Plump

  1. My sisters would murder you if they found out you dissed the ad. They liked the first episode better than the second one for what reason I dont have a clue.

    Vodafone does better than MTN in the creative aspects of the ads. The latter just slashes copious amounts of the colour yellow in their ads sprinkled with equal amounts of football stars, overzealous extras, musicians and radio presenters. Terrible.


  2. Thanks for talking about this! The first time my mother and I saw that part of the ad (the dark skinned and plump bit), our jaws dropped. We were like, what the heck?
    I was so so offended, because it’s downright insulting. Honestly, no one can justify it or excuse it. Doesn’t matter if the guy prefers light skinned, this is TV. This is not a personal conversation between two people which won’t be aired or broadcast. With TV, there’s stuff you can say and stuff you can’t say. Simple.
    To imply in any way that dark skinned isn’t beautiful is wrong. And what’s annoying is when I brought up the subject with a friend his response was, is it cos you’re dark skinned? Silliness.

    No matter your skin color, you should find this particular part of the ad offensive. If this ad was shown in America, some executive would lose their job. I know Ghana isn’t America, but you’d think that as an African nation of predominantly dark plump women there would be an outrage. But nope, we like the ad cos it looks nice.
    With all the health issues with bleaching, this ad sends several wrong messages.
    Vodafone needs to take it off ASAP.


  3. Which ad company has the campaign? I’m just curious.

    I agree, her saying ‘dark-skinned’ is well out of order. And since when was ‘plump’ a bad attribute in Ghana? Frankly, she may as well have said “I’m short, fat and black”. And the girl sounds like a muppet. When someone tell you to tell them about you, most people think job, hobbies, studies. Not physical appearance. She sounds high maintenance and a snob, he should dump her.

    Who WROTE the script? Sheesh.


  4. Well said!!! Too darn right. Perhaps an open letter to whom it concerns in the papers wouldn’t be amiss.
    I think this should be put out there for all to see. It is pretty much a matter of social responsibility.


  5. “true beauty is on the inside” meanwhile his sister or may i use your words Kobby “whatever” is standing next to him being ‘dark-skinned, short and plump’ ah well,he likes her for her “personality” thinks she’s ugly and she’s fine with it…


  6. lol FYI. The advert was pitched by a Ghanaian creative director and signed off by a Ghanaian client team. The flaws in the ad were pointed out by a so called foreigner but the team were ok with it.


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