After thirteen months and 5.95 million tweets, the Chorus Gigatown campaign is now playing its closing scenes, and there can only be one winner.
Next Wednesday the long-awaited Gigatown victor will be announced.
The campaign offers one town in New Zealand ultra fast, one gigabit per second broadband at the price you’d pay for entry-level 100mbps per second.
The competing towns have had to work long and hard for it. It’s been a year of hashtags, press, Instagram videos and some backlash to the spam that the social media campaign unintentionally invited.
In the final throngs of the competition, five cities are competing for the chance to have their town the Gigabit town of the future.
Dunedin, Gisborne, Nelson, Timaru and Wanaka are each in the running for the prize, and face a nervous wait over the weekend, Chorus spokesman Nathan Beaumont says.
“They’re all getting very excited and a tad nervous as well because it’s been such a long journey for them and they’re getting very close to finding out who the winner is,” Beaumont says.
Each of the towns is to be judged over five challenges in the final stage of the competition.
This included an Instragram video competition, quizzes on ultra fast broadband, a competition to gain supporters, to dominate social media, and to write the cities’ ‘Plan for Gig Success’ which is communicated through both a video and a written plan.
The length of the campaign, that aimed to pit cities against each other to rally mass engagement, was necessary, Beaumont says.
“It was one of those things that hadn’t really been done before on this sort of scale so it would take a bit of time to get the towns and the people in behind it and understand exactly what its all about.
“I think it’s one of those things that gains momentum as we went on, and I think if we had of done it in a shorter time span it wouldn’t have been as successful as it has been.”
Chorus worked on the campaign with Chameleon Partners.
Chameleon Partners creative director Simon Shattky said the campaign at completion will have been running for 13 months, but agrees this is about how long was needed.
“To be fair the campaign’s had a bit of criticism for the length of time it’s been running, but I guess the subject matter is quite hard. It’s all about putting fibre in the ground and the whole UFB process is still quite new.
“The reason for the length is you just need time to educate people – and the education needs to happen through the communities rather than having a corporation talking at you.”
Shattky says there is going to be no losers in the competition next week because the campaign has mobilised New Zealand towns to fasttrack their digital strategies and realise what UFB can do for a community economically.
“People in these towns, they totally get the benefit of what UFB can mean for New Zealand economically – it’s gone from, ‘I can download movies faster’ to now knowing it’s a real community thing.
“Now communities know the benefits of UFB you can’t put it back in the bottle. Once they’ve got it in their teeth what an engaged community is – there won’t be any losers on Wednesday.”
Embarking on such a full-on campaign, over such a long period, there is going be a certain level of make-it-up-as-you-go and adaptation needed.
Backlash against a social media campaign that saw people ‘hashtagging’ uncontrollably, thinking it would win their town more points, was quickly quelled by Chorus reiterating the rules.
Shattky says they needed to open the social media wide at first to get momentum.
“You sort of had to have it open slather at the beginning to have the right about of people engaged,” he says.
“Obviously we had a bit of flack about the social media side of things and people getting a bit annoyed about that but it was never our intention to frustrate or anger, it was just to try and highlight the benefits of UFB,” he says.
The National Business Review had strong words for the campaign, saying: "The extended social media hashtag competition of the past year has only annoyed people and trivialised the UFB, so there's a lot of damage to be undone."
But the negative comments were “unfair”, Beaumont says.
“If people are going to criticise us for trying to promote UFB I think it’s a bit unfair. At least we’re out there giving it a go trying to do something a bit different to promote uptake so you take it on board as just one of those things, unfortunately.”
Nathan says other commentators have also dissed the campaign while simultaneously acknowledging its effectiveness.
“I also saw there was a blogger on Stuff.co.nz who said it was the worst social media campaign ever, but he also said it had been a huge success,” he laughs.
At the close of the campaign, Chorus now looks back on a campaign that garnered more than 5.95 million tweets, at their peak being sent at more than 5 tweets per second.
More than 68,000 people completed a very hard quiz on UFB, and more than 50,000 people visited the Gigatown website on its final day.
Chorus plans to continue to support the winning town after the winner is announced next week. As the very public guinea pig town for UFB, it’s in its interests to make it a success.
Chorus is offering $200,000 worth of funding to support entrepeneurs and innovators in the winning town, as well as putting in $500,000 to kickstart community related developments that showcase how infrastructure and ufb can be activated for social good.
Watch the Plans for Gig Success below and vote at Gigatown.co.nz