MTN loses bid to bar Vodacom's 'Further Together' ads after copying complaints

Business Insider SA

  • Vodacom can continue conveying its message of togetherness in its campaign, South Africa's ad regulator rules.
  • Its closest rival, MTN, accused the mobile operator of copying its adverts where it also tries to demonstrate collaborative power.
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Vodacom's biggest rival has failed to convince South Africa's ad regulator that the phrase "Further Together" in its adverts imitates MTN's "We're Good Together" campaign.

In a complaint lodged by MTN, the mobile operator takes issue with Vodacom's ads featuring the words "Further Together", citing that its general theme relies upon leveraging technology and collaboration to advance humanity's endeavours.

In MTN's view, the ad is almost indistinguishable from its own.

The network provider launched its "We're Good Together" initiative in 2019 globally, whose point was to demonstrate the transformative power of digital inclusion and collaboration. It further rolled out the campaign in South Africa last year.

MTN said Vodacom's unexpected launch of the "Further Together" strategy needed to be addressed to mitigate the harm done to MTN's campaign.

"Until the launch of Vodacom's "Further Together" campaign, MTN's campaign was the only one of its kind, as the narrative of collaboration for collective prosperity was not a theme embraced by any competitors in the telecommunications industry," MTN argued.

MTN further stated that Vodacom was in breach of advertising rules, particularly concerning copying existing ads.  

"MTN is of the view that Vodacom's "Further Together" tagline, which is also based on an inclusive collaboration and embrace of technology for the sake of progress and prosperity, constitutes a breach of Clause 9 of Section II, as it imitates elements that are clearly recognisable and are likely to diminish the advertising value MTN sought to generate through its new global brand position," the company said.

It said the "Further Together" slogan not only exploits the value of its ad for commercial gain, but also confuses consumers who had, until Vodacom's ads, only seen the message of collaboration in the context of MTN's services.

Vodacom said MTN is ultimately seeking to monopolise the use of the word "together" within the telecoms sector, the themes in the campaigns are different, and the word is the only common element.

"It is simply impossible for any telecommunications company, including MTN, to lay claim to the use of the word 'together', or the concept of ‘togetherness’, in advertising if regard is had to the meaning of that word or concept, both in a general sense, as well as in the context of providing services which literally bring people together by connecting them telephonically and/or digitally," Vodacom said.

In its response, Vodacom further said its tagline is a derivative of its global Vodafone slogan "Together We Can" and was found to be suitable in communicating and celebrating "what the human spirit can achieve when combined with technology."

"This tagline communicates that technology is nothing without humanity, and that when we go further together, this is when technology is used for good," it said.

Vodacom argued that "Everywhere You Go" remained as MTN's tagline in various iterations of its ads and that "We're Good Together" was used only as a sub-tagline.

It said "We're Good Together" cannot be divorced from "Everywhere You Go", stating that the "Everywhere you go" phrase continued to feature on MTN's Covid-19 Hero campaign and was not used as a standalone slogan.

"We're Good Together" does not constitute the 'signature' of MTN, which remains the tagline 'Everywhere you go'… Moreover, MTN have not established that the phrase 'We're Good Together' alone is so prominent in the mind of consumers that a sub-brand has been created," argued Vodacom.

While the Advertising Regulatory Board's Directorate disagreed with Vodacom that its competitor was trying to monopolise the word together, it found that Vodacom's concept was sufficiently different from MTN's.

"Further together" is more of an aspirational concept, and looks to the future and to what could be achieved when people and technology come together, whereas MTN's concept is more celebratory of the present, focusing on what is being achieved with MTN's customers using its technology," the Directorate said in its ruling.

The Directorate also found that Vodacom's ad does not exploit any of the advertising goodwill generated by MTN from its "Good Together" concept.

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