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Introducing our Ethical Advertising Policy

Delina Shields, Marketing Tribe Lead, explains why Vodafone NZ is taking this step

Last week, our team took the extraordinary step to suspend advertising on a national radio station when the host and a caller made some abhorrent racist comments on-air. I’m incredibly proud of the swift action our team took - and it raised a strong discussion about the role of advertisers in today’s world, and the sort of content that we should (or should not) be willing to support or have our brand associated with via advertising placement.

As we wrote in our Facebook post at the time, we are clear in our commitment to honouring the principles of Te Tīriti o Waitangi, which for us means developing meaningful, enduring and mutually beneficial relationships with Māori as tangata whenua, as well as celebrating and using one of our beautiful national languages, te reo Māori, wherever we can.

We don’t condone racism in any way, and instead aim to work with organisations and support initiatives that celebrate diversity and foster inclusion.

If we really want to stand up for our values and beliefs, we need to take action, and in this case it involved walking away from advertising with that radio station as well as starting a review of our advertising approach more broadly.

Today, we’re releasing our Ethical Advertising Policy. We have compiled this as a matter of priority to provide our teams, as well as our advertising, sponsorship and marketing partners, a clearer outline on our values-based approach - and what we want to stand for, or stand up against.

Our approach to ethical advertising

We believe in the importance of freedom of expression, and understand that different people may interpret different concepts in different ways. We also believe that freedom of expression means freedom of choice as to where we advertise.

We have kept this Ethical Advertising Policy principles-focused on purpose. While it is tempting to provide a prescriptive list of who and where we might focus our investment, we are realistic in that society is very complex, that many advertising platforms can change their approach to societal issues on a day-to-day basis and there is a lot of grey and subjective areas.

In applying this policy we will need to make judgement calls - and we know that means we might not always get it right. So we will continue to review and adjust the policy as it gets tested by the complexity of real life and emerging societal issues.

We are focusing initially on four key values-based principles:

  • Celebrate Aotearoa - our past, present and future
  • Be supportive, positive and inclusive
  • Champion honest content
  • Do the right thing

As a large brand, we advertise across many different channels and hundreds of individual platforms - from traditional TV and radio advertising, to retargeted programmatic digital, and demographic-specific ads on social media platforms. We believe this policy can apply to all of these areas.

But we don’t shy away from the fact this will be a difficult endeavour. One of the incredibly democratising impacts of the internet is that it means anybody can be a publisher. This has led to a proliferation of online media, blogs and social media posting.

In a practical sense, we use technology to help us determine our preferred/approved digital partners as well as those we don’t advertise on due to concerns around content and potential breaches, and will continue to refine these lists as we go forward. We also have relationships with media publishers, as well as individual radio stations or TV shows, so we’ll be speaking to organisations to see if they are willing to support our approach.

Our policy is available here and we’re open to feedback. If you have any thoughts, suggestions or criticism, feel free to email us at communityrelationsteam@vodafone.com.

We know we won’t ever be able to satisfy everyone - and we understand some people will think we’ve gone too far, while others will say we haven’t gone far enough. But on the whole, we hope the feedback is more positive than negative.

We want to see all New Zealanders thrive, so believe it’s important we all take a stand for what we believe in. We hope you agree.

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