Sunday, August 08, 2010

Cell C PR Lies Exposed

I always thought Trevor Noah was a funny guy. And his clip (above) about mobile operator Cell C is right on the mark. But there is a problem with this YouTube clip: it's a PR setup that was planned months ago.
The domain name was registered by the Cell C ad agency on Wednesday 23/06/2010 18:27:09 SAST, even though the site was only announced in the media today. And the clip on YouTube was uploaded a week ago by "BobbyT" on Wednesday July 28th, just in time for a full page ad in last week's Sunday Times where the CEO of Cell C refers to it. The ad refers to Trevor's Facebook page, which doesn't have the video.
Update: Trevor's YouTube handle is "southafrica4you". It seems that all critical comments on the YouTube page are being systematically removed. Pity they don't remove the positive responses. It starts looking a bit obvious.
This week the full page ads in the Sunday Times announce how Trevor has suddenly been appointed "CEO" of Cell C in response to his complaint about Cell C, and disgruntled customers can go to the "new" web site. This is bogus since the "response" site was planned a month before the video appeared on YouTube. A "bizarre turn of events" indeed. To make matters worse, the "complaints" section of the site wasn't working. See below.
So even if you wanted to complain, you can't, because the site is broken. It's just a load of PR double-speak, written by the spin-doctors at an ad agency. How much more bogus can you get? They clearly haven't read the ClueTrain Manifesto, which explains why consumers just don't buy that kind of insincerity and spin any more.
Update: Their "4Gs" network is actually only a 3G network. HSPA+ is not advanced enough to be classified as 4G. Most consumers have no idea of the difference.
And then there's the small matter of the new Cell C logo. Last time I checked it wasn't possible to trademark the © symbol, since it is a common typographical symbol that has been around for years. Yet the CELL©™ ads clearly show a large © with a ridiculous ™ next to it. What are these fools trying to do? Make idiots of themselves? Which CIPRO bureaucrat did they have to bribe to get that one through, or do they just put the ™ sign wherever they feel like it?
So while the sentiment "the power is in your hands" may be a noble one, the power to complain about Cell C doesn't belong to them or their ad agency. It still belongs to the consumer, and Cell C manAGEment is still in their ivory tower getting it wrong. And the blogosphere is NOT impressed:

I tried calling the Cell C "Legal Department" but was put through to the wrong department and then stayed on hold for 10 minutes. So much for "give us a call".
Update: The reason I was trying to contact the legal department was to find out when the trademarks were registered, and the registration number. IF they have been registered (which I doubt), then South Africa will become the first country in the world to trademark a typographical symbol. How ironic that it would be the Copyright symbol! Oh, the shame and embarassment at such obvious incompetence! Only in Africa.

Update: It seems that their logo isn't particularly original either:

Update 18th August: Andy Rice and Jenny Crwys-Williams chatted to Andre Lombaard of Ogilvy, the agency responsible for the TellTrevor campaign. It seems Ogilvy are so used to lying they will tacitly admit it.

Click this player to listen to the show or download the mp3 extract from their show.


Arno said...

Have to agree with the general sentiment of people online that the joke really is on them! Poor execution of what could have been an awesome campaign.

Lars P. Reichelt said...


Firstly, apologies on behalf our legal dept.

Allow me 2 comments:

1. Cell C has embarked on a journey, where over the next couple of months we will address the key issues we have identified and where we want to actively solicit feedback from customers where else we have to improve. We are investing over ZAR 5 Billion in our new 4Gs network and are improving the existing 2G network as well. In addition we are investing Billions more in our new customer care & billing system, into new stores (110 have already been built), into better training to improve our customer care and into better value propositions. Changes will be coming on-stream in the next 90 -120 days

2. We are very happy with the number of people discussing our new look & feel. It shows people are interested and the new brand ID creates a debate. The feedback we are getting from customers in our new stores, in passing conversations and on the web is overwhelmingly positive. That some commentators feel inclined to disagree with the look and feel or are wondering about the "trademarkability" is o.k. with us. Primarily, the “C” in the centre is based on our vision of "understanding the way of life of our customers better (C for customer) and tailoring solutions around them (Ring for "solutions around them") and there is no significance in the Cell C logo bearing a resemblance to the copyright symbol.

Hope that explains some of the issues you mentioned.

Best, Lars

Donn Edwards said...


Blah blah blah blah blah.

You LIED to your customers in a full page ad in two Sunday newspapers.

I do not believe that any of your new logos have yet been trademarked, and attempts to contact your legal department to find out the trademark registration dates and details have been fruitless.

So stop avoiding the issues by blabbing on about your "journey" and your "trademarkability" nonsense and answer dome direct questions in a direct manner.

Oh, and get a clue, as in the "Cluetrain Manifesto".

Anonymous said...

Get over yourself Donn, this campaign was brilliantly executed and lit up the blogosphere. It got you talking,...and that's the point.

Donn Edwards said...

If they had told the TRUTH it would have been brilliant.

Now I KNOW they are a bunch of liars. have asked Lars Reichelt for an apology, but I doubt if he even understands thw gravity of what he did.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: which ad agency do you work for? It wasn't brilliant it was pathetic, because it was an attempt at deception that has backfired.

Anonymous said...

It turns out theat their "4Gs" service isn't 4G at all. When will the deception end?

Anonymous said...

Checkout the logo used by chillibush, they look the same.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should do some research before you make stupid comments. A Trademark is a mark that is used to trade with. All that mean is that no one else can TRADE with the mark ©. That means you can still put © everywhere but can't trade with it.

Secondly the letters TM mean that the trademark is unregistered!

Someone needs to get their facts right. Your lies have now been exposed!

Donn Edwards said...

@Michael Robert: You're right. I didn't realize the difference between ™ and ®. See
I have amended my post accordingly.

So basically the TM part is bogus, because it means nothing. Like the rest of the campaign.

Anonymous said...

"Astroturfing" denotes political, advertising, or public relations campaigns that are formally planned by an organization, but are disguised as spontaneous, popular "grassroots" behavior. The term refers to AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.

Anonymous said...

I personally will never use Cell C again, both because of how useless they are and believe me they are downright thick. And now because of this constant lying.

I hear their adverts on the radio with Trevor and it makes me want to throw up just thinking that there are morons out there who are actually buying into this codswallop!

Seriously people get a clue, they haven't improved anything at all, all they have done is rebranded and badly at that!