Writing, life, politics

Phones4U: Losers With No Friends

I think that scouting is a really good pastime for children. It breeds character, confidence, and helps build them into the citizens of tomorrow, which in a world where a good chunk of them are walking around with knives stabbing people is in my opinion a pretty important thing. And I consider the adults who volunteer their time to run scout-groups to be very good people doing a very good thing. It’s just a shame there aren’t enough of them: the Scout Association is 6000 volunteer adult leaders short, and as a result 33,000 children are on waiting lists to join.

Bear Grylls – adventurer, former SAS member, and the youngest person to climb Mount Everest – agrees with me. He’s just been appointed Chief Scout of the UK Scouting movement, with a declared aim of recruiting those 6000 leaders. That’s him in his uniform to the right.

Why am I saying this? Because it turns out that the mobile phone company Phones4U don’t think that scoutmasters are cool people. Quite the opposite in fact. In their own words, in a full page advert I found in today’s Metro newspaper: “The Scout Master. You might be good with knots. You might be good with children. But there’s no way you’ve got 50 friends in your phone … Great deals 4 popular people.”

As is probably pretty obvious, that really pissed me off. Who the hell do they (i.e. the Phones4U marketeers) think they are to hurl ridicule at people who’re probably doing a hell of a lot more to make the world a better place than they are? Now I’m sure that those marketing folks would say that I’m wrong to take umbrage at this. They’d probably spin some bullshit like: “…just poking good-natured and affectionate humour at a much loved institution.”

But there’s nothing good-humoured nor affectionate in suggesting that a man is lacking in friends due to the type of man he is, and that – by implication – he isn’t therefore worthy of friendship. This is the lowest, nastiest form of humour. It’s the sort of nasty “laugh at the outsider” type of humour that bullies at school used against geeks like me, and the fact that their humour worked with the cruel masses only made it more hurtful. Maybe that’s why this advert so enraged me.

If the people at Phones4U (and with a name like that, why am I surprised that they turned out to be wankers?) really, genuinely think that scout-masters are worthy of public ridicule, why don’t they put their opinions where their mouth is and rerun that advert with a picture of Bear Grylls?

Or better still: find him wherever he happens to be, and tell him what they think of scout-masters to his face. That’s an advert I’d like to see.


  1. Phones 4u

    We like scout masters and in fact have a lot of respect for them and others who support the youth audience. The campaign is a humorous commentary about people’s obsession with popularity. It is meant to be a bit of fun and clearly not meant to be taken at literal face value, and we’re sorry if it’s caused you any offence.

    Our focus has always been to target the youth market and the Great Deals For Popular People campaign is about Phones 4u offering great value deals. The aim of the campaign is to engage with our customers and reinforce what we’re about as a brand through fun, tongue in cheek advertising.

  2. Bob

    Since their last adverts made fun of the mentally retarded I wouldn’t put much past those marketers. None of their campaigns have ever given me the slightest inclination to purchase from them.

    • Jonny Nexus

      Making fun of the mentally retarded? Guess I shouldn’t be shocked by the scout thing then.

    • Anon

      The people in those adverts werent mentally retarded…

      There was never anything to suggest that those characters (and lets not forget ladies and gentlemen that they are fictional and not based on anyone in real life) had mental issues.

      I would actually say that it is dependant on the individual watching those adverts to make a mental decision as to th mental state of the characters and perhaps it is more your perception of that person.

      If my statement there is correct then perhaps it is not the way in which an advert is shown but a problem with the people viewing the advert. Which seems to me to be the problem with this whole post.

      Just a load of jumped up people getting on their high horses because something may have been aimed at a hobby they like.

      I’m a girl and I like eating chocolate – but i dont get on my high horse when Yorkie tells me I can’t.

      People should learn to take adverts lightly, like anyone is going to care if Phones 4 u dont get a few peoples business – I hate to point this out but people lie and will always look out for number 1..regardless of what has been said here if Mr Scout Leader gets the best value deal there then thats where he will go.

      People are people – the majority are mindless enough to think that advert is funny and the rest should be wise enough to just ignore it

  3. Richard Crowe

    Brilliant article and well said.

    My Email to phones4whoever

    To whoever at phones4U

    I don’t normally get offended by adverts, in fact own an advertising agency in Central London, but having seen your pathetic effort this morning I was disgusted and moved to at least make a comment, although it’ll probably fall on deaf ears.

    I’m a Scout Leader (note its ‘Leader’ not ‘Master’ which went out as a term in the Sixties!) and I hope that I am one of thousands of complaints you get regarding this insulting piece of trash, I cannot believe a company of your standing could make such a faux pas!

    I don’t know who thought it was funny or why your advertising agency thought it was a good idea to upset 1000’s of adults in this country, not to mention all the kids they work very hard to provide an exciting and active programme for. This kind of ‘cheap shot’ degrades all the good volunteer work done across the UK. It just shows how puerile and un-informed some people in the media world can be and projects an outdated and totally false image of Scouting today.

    I don’t really expect anything will be done about this advert and you’ll continue to run it anyway, but The Scout Association has rules again rubbish like this, I hope that they get the legal department do something about it.

    For my part, you can forget my custom. My contract comes up for renewal in a month or so, and I’m going elsewhere and I hope all those connected with Scouting do the same … not that you’d really care.

    You might think you are targetting a 16-24yr age group … well in Scouting, Young Leaders start at 14 and can be an Adult Leader at 18. Then of course there is all the present Leaders and associated staff who will not be buying mobiles for their kids either … so an own goal I think guys.

  4. Rosemary

    What a rotten lot these phone people are. But on the whole you find that “marketing people” sit in their ivory towers trying to justify their existence by dreaming up ideas. In the end the cost of this is borne by the consumer, so we are, in effect, paying their wages. Isn’t it time all this expensive advertising were stopped anyway and Phones 4U are not the only people to be derogatory to various sections of the community, although this does not justify their present campaign.

  5. Tommy

    i think its disgrace,

    if this was targeting other minority groups it would not have been published,

    How dare Phones 4U Think of portarying a “scout master” with a very old scout uniform (is it even a UK one?) on.

    at least get up to date images. scout leader do a wealth of good with in society, and it makes you question weather the Global companies really rescept the society in which we all live in????

  6. Rob Munro

    Excellent post – this stupid, nasty ‘post-modern’ marketing just shows how out of touch these businesses are with the public. Take a look at JD Power’s customer satisfation survey to see how unpopular the phone companies are.


  7. Anon

    Doesn’t anyone think – hey it’s just an advert!

    I’m all for the scouts, my mum was a brown owl and set up the rainbows/brownies/guides movement in my home town – my brother was a scout.

    But hey guys! – It’s just an advert, it’s not a personal attack to anyone just like adverts like McCoys (Man Crisps) implies that anyone who discusses ballet isnt a man etc etc.

    No one cries about that one so why is everyone getting so defensive about this one.

    People in the scouts are most likely always gonna get bullied – regardless of what is on TV/paper etc – that is just the world we live in.

    Surely the whole premise of being a scout (a truly heroic and honourable person) is that you have the ability to rise against petty adverts and opinions of others and to go your own way and be the bigger man without causing an uproar.

    So what if some phone company wants to say that scouts might be unpopular – i’m sure they will have many more adverts featuring other areas of society.

    I for one thinks – so what, let them.

  8. Anon

    I work for Phones4u and this is the least of their problems. The fact that 99% of their sales staff are liars should be more important. Im sure that those tossers dont have 50 friends.

  9. Wole Regoge Nej

    To James Wallis – Aside from the above post – i did not post this

  10. Liam

    this is just plan nasty + it doesnt give a very good image of phones 4 u (now when i think of phones 4 u i think of a big bullying company that dosnt care about its costmers). what i did find funny was i coulnt find and info on this 50+ frends on phones 4 u’s actual website.

  11. Anon2

    I completely agree with you Liam- the way they present it just seems to be bullying.

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