Poles cry foul over Czech mobile ad

Photo: T-Mobile

The Polish embassy in Prague has taken offence at a TV commercial for the mobile phone operator T-Mobile in which a Polish man is presented as a fraudster. The Polish ambassador, who says the clip harms relations between the two nations, has officially requested the operator pull the commercial, a move T-Mobile said would consider.

Photo: T-Mobile
In the commercial that was released last week, a teacher leads a group of students on a skiing trip in the mountains, presumably near the Czech-Polish border. He receives a phone call but his phone breaks down. Fortunately, an underhand Polish-speaking trader, disguised as a tree, is available to help.

He offers to replace the broken phone but when the rather dim-witted teacher tries to make a call, the phone breaks down as well. In the meantime, the untrustworthy Polish trader has disappeared and can’t be seen for the trees. The commercial then invites viewers to swop their old phones for new ones provided directly by the upright T-Mobile.

Marek Minarczuk,  photo: Charles University
The clip is part of a series of ostensibly funny high-school themed T-Mobile commercials. But the Polish embassy in Prague was not amused. In a letter to the CEO of T-Mobile Czech Republic on Wednesday, Ambassador Grazyna Bernatowicz said the commercial harmed relations between the two countries and requested the operator pull the ad. Marek Minarczuk is the Polish Deputy Chief of Mission.

“We at the Polish embassy do a lot to improve Polish-Czech relations and the image of Poland and Poles among Czechs. But this is an example of something that goes very much against that.

“I would say the clip adds to the sometimes rather negative opinions about Poles in the Czech Republic. So that’s something we don’t like.”

Pavel Brabec,  photo: ČT
The controversy has received a lot of attention in the Polish media. Mr Minarczuk says some of the Polish reactions are from those who argue that the clip was supposed to be funny and there is no reason to complain. Several Czech marketing experts expressed the same view. But Pavel Brabec, the head of the Association of Czech Adverting Agencies says the commercial takes good taste to the limits.

“My personal opinion is that the commercial is on the edge to say the least. Commercials should have certain attributes, one of them being corporate responsibility. And I think that here, T-Mobile might have failed.”

Photo: Marián Vojtek,  ČRo
For its part, T-Mobile expressed regret about how the Polish ambassador perceived the ad. In a press release on Thursday, the operator said it had no intention to ridicule Polish people, and claimed it used a specific type of humour in the marketing campaign. The firm’s CEO has offered to meet with the ambassador while the firm considers dropping the clip.