MTN gets mired in another controversy

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For MTN Nigeria, controversy is not a strange word. The telecommunications giant has over the years gotten used to it, as it deploys its marketing communications activities.Last August, MTN caused another stir. It said it is offering an airplane to its new and existing subscribers in a consumer promo tagged: Ultimate Wonder promo. This is the first time any brand will be offering such a great prize.
The Ultimate Wonder promo which was flagged off in Lagos, is a new customer-based ‘recharge and win’ promo in which customers will win weekly cash prizes, and an ultimate winner will cart home a Cessna 182 T airplane, in a grand prize presentation in October.

Shortly after the announcement, many highbrows were raised on the grand prize. And a lot of subscribers expressed great concerns on the genuineness of the promo.
This prompted the Consumer Protection Council of Nigeria (CPC) to wade into the matter.
A statement from CPC on Monday and which was made available to the Nigerian Compass reads, “The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has directed communication giant, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited, to make available to consumers adequate information on its recharge and win aircraft promotion, tagged MTN-Ultimate Wonder Campaign Promotion.”

The Council’s directive was handed down to the communication company at a meeting convened by the agency to address the apprehension and concerns of consumers on the promotion.
Issuing the directive at the meeting to the MTN team, led by its General Manager, Regulatory Affairs, Ms. Oyeronke Oyetunde, CPC said the communication has left out some information needed to adequately guide consumers on the promotion.
According to the agency, MTN, left out the market value of the aircraft to be won, the size of the plane, the delivery period of the aircraft to an eventual winner or cash equivalence in local currency for a winner, who may prefer a cash reward for the grand prize.

Similarly, the Council frowned at the fact that consumers, in all the existing communications on the promotion, are not properly directed to the site where the terms and conditions applicable to the promotion are published and the fact that the reference to those terms was in small print.
It directed the communication outfit to reflect and correct all these lapses in its subsequent media interactions and communication, which MTN assured would be done within the next two or three weeks because of the intricacies involved, particularly in the change of its advertisement.
Earlier, the MTN team had explained that the promotion was introduced because “we wanted to do something different and to start something that would excite our consumers”.

The team pointed out that the grand prize is a four-seater aircraft, worth $400,000 which is equivalent to N72million, though it disclosed that an order was yet to be made because of the possibility of its winner preferring a cash award.
When questioned on what will be made available if the possible winner prefers the aircraft, the team disclosed that an order would thereafter be made, delivery of which would take six or eight weeks.
Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, the Director General of CPC, Mrs. Ify Umenyi, said the lapses discovered in the promotion underlined her Council’s insistence that all sales promotions must be vetted before going public in order to safeguard the interest of consumers.

Mrs. Umenyi assured that the Council would, among other steps introduced to curb abuse of consumers through sales promotions, henceforth publish on its website, its facebook and other sources, sales promotions approved by it and those not subjected for vetting in the interest and well-being of consumers.
She said the step has become inevitable because of the increasing number of sales promotions being introduced in different sectors of the economy, some of which, she said, are intended to deceive consumers.
The General Manager, Consumer Marketing of MTN, Kola Oyeyemi, at a recent media briefing said there was no cause to doubt the company as it had in the past demonstrated its sincerity in fulfilling such promises.

Oyeyemi said, “For many people, it’s so hard to believe that we are giving out an aeroplane which for me is understandable because no other brand has done that in our history. I think I have some reputation as an individual. There is nothing MTN has promised Nigeria and failed to fulfill. Remember the N1bn promo where we shelled out N1bn to 100 lucky winners. It looked very impossible to many until we made it happen. The Automania game is ongoing; so far we have given out over 86 Hyundai ix35 SUVs to lucky winners in the 100 SUVs – 100-day nation-wide automania game. We decided to go for an airplane because we know we have the capacity to do it.”
He said apart from doing the usual, nothing extraordinary was required to emerge as the winner of the promo.
“Consumers do not need to do extra ordinary things to win the airplane, all we ask you to do is do nothing asides what you normally would do,” Oyeyemi added.

He explained that an average Nigerian would at least buy airtime worth N200 in a month, and this is enough to earn someone an airplane.
To win the airplane, subscribers were encouraged to recharge up to N3,000 within the 90 days period of the promo.
According to him, the more a subscriber recharges, the more chances they stand to win. Other prizes  up for grabs in the Ultimate Wonder promo include a weekly star  prize of  N2m and  N150,000   to 12 winners per week with a token  recharge of at least N200 in a week.
Also instant cash prizes of N50, 000 was said to await lucky subscribers who are spotted by the Mystery Spotter on the streets of Nigeria with the Ultimate Wonder Sticker pasted on their cars.

It would be recalled that the telcos’s “Mama Na Boy,” campaign in 2005 generated much controversy. Though, it was a simple ad, antagonists said it promoted a male child above female.
The adverts showed a young man in the city making a call to his mother and declaring with joy ‘Mama, Na Boy.’ The mother screams in delight and springs into a sensational local dance. Her joy is so infectious that the whole village rejoices with her.
As controversial as it was, ‘Mama, Na Boy’ is one of MTN’s most popular adverts with 78 per cent of people tested in several locations around the country having total recall. 

The commercial was also rated highly in terms of originality, memorability, appeal and relevance. ‘Mama, Na Boy’ generated publicity and was the subject of several articles and in newspapers for several weeks afterwards. It won the award, Best TV Commercial of the year 2005 at the DAME Awards.
A sexist joke from the telecom company had also drawn the ire of some in the past.
The joke: “Behind every Benin woman there is a satisfied man, but behind every satisfied Calabar woman, there is an exhausted man.”, got many angry. 
Women’s Rights Watch, an organisation working to promote and defend women’s rights in Nigeria, wrote a petition to the telco on the joke. 
The group said, “Our attention has been drawn to a joke currently being circulated by MTN through their network, which customers can access upon payment of N50: “Behind every Benin woman there is a satisfied man, but behind every satisfied Calabar woman, there is an exhausted man.”

Women’s Rights Watch, an organisation working to promote and defend women’s rights in Nigeria, wishes to vehemently protest this gender stereotyping and stigmatisation of women from Calabar and Benin City. It is an insult to the entire women of Nigeria!”

“This is not the first time MTN has been guilty of such behaviour, first was its widely circulated “Mama na boy” advert. This unrepentant behaviour from MTN is not acceptable to us here in Nigeria,” the group added    
BY DELE ALAO

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