Vonage Uses Crazy Street Person To Advance The Cause of Generosity

Vonage isn’t your father’s mobile phone carrier. To prove it, the brand has enlisted a new Chief Generosity Officer, and taken a page from Geico’s caveman in the process.

This is JWT’s first work for the brand. What do you think? Will the above philosopher of the people help educate mobile phone users about the “archaic ways” of other carriers?

Brand Channel spoke to Barbara Goodstein, Vonage’s CMO, about the spot. Goodstein calls the character “campaignable and relatable” and “combining the mind of a professor and the tech-savvy look of an engineer. He’s exactly what we were hoping he would be in terms of attracting attention and being interesting and someone people would want to talk about.”

Okay, so he’s not a caveman wannabe or a street person. Vonage’s Chief Generosity Officer “has the mind of a professor and the look of an engineer.” And look, he’s wearing a tie!

It’s hard to say for sure if Vonage is making fun of the Chief Generosity Officer idea here, or embracing it. I am inclined to think it’s all a joke — the production lends itself to this argument. However, the concept of a more generous mobile provider is no laughing matter.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Polarize says:

    When I saw the Vonage “Crazy Generous” ad it did not sit well with me. I feel it is making fun of and disrespecting an array of people even if it is not directly spoken, such as the homeless and the mentally ill. The ad is not tasteful. I was shocked when someone yelled to the man with the beard, “Crazy!” This is not OK to say to anyone let alone in this s Vonage ad and the person they chose for the role. Are they trying to put down homeless and mentally ill people?

  2. This advertisement is highly offensive to individuals afflicted with mental illness. The man portrayed in this advertisement is a caricature of individuals afflicted with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia. In this day and age I find it difficult to believe that Vonage executives wouldn’t anticipate that some people might find this advertisement offensive. Considering that individuals with mental illness are vulnerable and have difficulty advocating for themselves, I feel that this advertisement is a kind of sick joke that Vonage executives are playing on individuals with afflicted mental illness.

    • I thought the same thing. I get what they were trying to say but it makes it look like they are making fun of homeless people.

      • Debbie Skhow says:

        They are making fun of homeless people, it doesn’t just look like it. They found one group of people who they feel they can mock, bully and will not fight back.

  3. Debbie Skhow says:

    The ad is offensive, imagine a person of color depicted in this way, add the word “crazy” and you have the makings of a very real backlash from a very vocal group of family members of people with a mental illness and mental health workers. Just a really stupid idea that strikes at the most vulnerable, one would almost say it was “crazy” to conduct an ad campaign in the reckless and insensitive way in 2013. More like something out of the 1970’s, as bad as the company it promotes. Agency JWT should know better.

    • Jason Hawkins says:

      Welcome to generation of “looking for a reason to be offended so I can feel like a victim too”…its comedy. Comedy is always offensive to someone. Learn to laugh a little and not be so sensitive. The bad news? There will always be people like me ready to laugh at you…and laugh at myself. Thirty years ago the liberal mantra was “stop censorship” now its “say what you want, as long as I like it”…sad times. Slim Pickens, RIP.

  4. This is very offensive. To portray the mentally ill and homeless as a joke or some goofy mascot is extremely insensitive. I implore you to take this off the air.

  5. AcuteHedghog says:

    You guys are stupid.
    I would explain more about why I think this, but /my/ mental illness makes my hands hurt all the time, and trying to explain just why you lot are being dumb would make my hands hurt even more.
    Have fun thinking the worst about everyone and everything, and hopefully someday those sticks lodged up your asses will be able to be removed.

  6. williamsommerwerck says:

    I am curious as to what there is about the man that suggests he’s mentally ill.
    Although the ads don’t make it clear, he is supposedly Vonage’s “chief generosity officer”, so he is employed.
    And let me be blunt… He is damned handsome.

  7. Holy crow! Can we get totally judgemental about nothing, or what? This ad offends no one except maybe Sprint, Verizon and AT&T – all known for really high international call rates.
    This person is not presented as having any sort of mental imbalance, and in fact does nothing but talk sense. Now, the notion that a mobile, or land line company, would actually charge reasonable rates for their service may be Crazy!, but that is the only aspect of this commercial to which the appellation can be applied.
    Get off your high horse, and use some common sense, for crying out loud.

  8. and why in the world do you assume this person is homeless? he is well dressed, if a bit hirsute and “un-manscaped” – but really, homeless? not so much!

  9. you all have way more issues than Vonage – perhaps you need to speak with a therapist?…I’m just sayin’…

  10. Sick of everyone-gets-a-trophy says:

    Shut up you socialist thought police lover