MTN South Africa has hit back at Cell C’s recent cheeky radio advertising campaign, which was slapped down this month by the Advertising Standards Authority, telling its smaller rival in a double-page Sunday newspaper advertisement that it, MTN, is, in fact, “guilty” as charged.
Well, not really. The ad, which is dripping with sarcasm, goes on to explain that MTN is “guilty” of reinvesting the billions in profits it makes back into its national network.
“We’re guilty,” the double-page ad, which is placed across pages two and three of the main section of the Sunday Times — a position for which it no doubt paid top dollar as it’s highly unusual for a newspaper to sell this space to an advertiser — proclaims in gigantic letters.
“Dear Cell C. You are right,” the ad’s text then says. “You said that we are making billions, and that is correct. We are also guilty of investing 83% of those billions, back into South Africa.”
MTN was left seeing red after Cell C began flighting a radio advertisement in February, soon after MTN filed papers against communications regulator Icasa at the high court in Johannesburg challenging new call termination rate regulations that determine what operators charge each other to carry calls between their networks.
Icasa is lowering the rates and introducing “asymmetry” that favours Cell C and other smaller industry players, this in an effort to force down retail prices and increase competition in South Africa’s mobile sector. MTN and Vodacom are vehemently opposed to the level of asymmetry introduced by Icasa and the fact that Cell C, which was launched more than 13 years ago, will benefit from it.
Cell C, keenly aware of the pressure to come from its bigger rivals, launched its ad attacking MTN’s lawsuit. “Their [MTN’s] lawyers are going to try and get the regulator to change the regulation it has already made. Where will it get the money?” Cell C asked. “Well, if you’re on their network, every time you make a call, or text, or surf the ‘Net, part of the money you pay could be given to the lawyers who are trying to stop these lower rates.”
Two weeks later, the Advertising Standards Authority, acting following a complaint from MTN, ruled that Cell C must withdraw its ad. The authority found that Cell C omitted part of the truth about the Icasa regulations and that its ad painted an “incomplete picture of the status quo” and created a “misleading impression” among consumers.
Now, MTN has hit back at Cell C with its latest campaign.
“We’re guilty,” the operator proclaims sarcastically, “of inventing [the prepaid service]PayAsYouGo, a world-first product that opened the world of cellular connectivity to South Africans from all walks of life, instead of just the wealthy”.
The operator says, too, that it is “guilty of being a major taxpayer” that “contributes to the creation of employment for thousands of South Africans.”
It’s “guilty”, too, it says, of “introducing Mahala calls to South Africa, which forced our competitors to cut their prices”.
“We’re guilty of not wanting to fight with you, because there are millions of South Africans that we’d rather be fighting for.”
The ad then takes aim at reports that Cell C’s network coverage is problematic, especially in the Gauteng region. South Africans, MTN says, “deserve better”.
“They deserve a network that works. A network that hardly ever drops their calls. A network that offers access to world-class Internet, all across our country.” — (c) 2014 NewsCentral Media