A piglet named Piggy Sue and a Southern Mail courier driver Keith will replace James Rolleston as the face of Vodafone on Sunday night when the telco launches a new brand campaign developed by FCB.
Shot in central Otago, the spot tells the endearing story of Keith who happens upon a lost piglet and then proceeds to hunt for its owner by using all the available communication tools facilitated through the Vodafone network to contact the inhabitants in the rural setting. Eventually, he does find the rightful owner of the piglet, but the spot comes with a delightful twist that hits you "right in the feels" as one YouTube commenter pointed out.
Vodafone New Zealand’s head of brand and insights Bart De Beucker says that this marks the next stage in the evolution of the brand and that both the telco and Rolleston felt it was time for a change.
"James has done a great job for us for two years, because he enabled us to reconnect with Kiwis," says De Beucker. "But we as a company have evolved into a fully converged business with a network from north to south, which covers 97.5 percent of the country and has a 4G reach of 80 percent of the country. And James has also grown up in the last few years. He has gone from being a teenager to being a man and he now has own acting career."
FCB executive creative director James Mok says that Rolleston's last ad released around Christmas—which won the Colmar Brunton Ad Impact ad of the year award—was a fitting end to the partnership and he's confident that consumers will welcome the change.
"He delivered some great value for the brand, but brands and campaigns evolve," says Mok. "It's actually risky to just keep something going, because it stops offering a surprise for the consumer in a highly competitive category."
De Beucker also points out that it's significant that the spot doesn't take place in one of the trendy metropolitan areas, where innovative digital technology is usually showcased.
"We wanted to make sure that we signalled that we aren't just an Auckland company, but actually that we are available across the country," he says.
In shifting the action away from the city centre, the campaign also reaches out to rural New Zealand, where the Vodafone network coverage reaches more than 239,000 homes. And it's noteworthy that it doesn't follow the common advertising trend of talking down to those living in rural areas by making them seem technologically inept or disengaged from modern society.
"The brand direction that we're taking is all about real-life stories, real-life situations and real-life people," says De Beucker. "Practically, all of the casting you see are real people from Otago."
De Beucker explains that only Keith and Angela (the woman who owns the farm at the end) are actors, while all the other characters were portrayed by actual people living in Otago.
A similar approach was recently also employed by Coca Cola for the launch of Coke Life, with the drinks company heading to the small town of Otira to give the residents a taste of the new drink. The initial responses were then captured and cut into a TVC that served to introduce the green cans to the Kiwi market (interestingly, when looking for this campaign it appears to have been pulled).
Each of the characters are shown using technology and tools that would be equally congruent in a flat located in the Auckland CBD.
And at a time when when telco networks are emphasising the latest technological gadgetry, Vodafone's new ad veers away from spinning phones and instead showcases the utility and the human side behind digital devices.
"We're really focused on what the technology enables rather than the technology itself," says Nileema Allerston, Vodafone's head of business brands and comms. "The other way of looking at that is that all the device manufacturers can tell you what the technology does, because they're making those devices ... The technology is incidental to what is happening. It's very powerful to see that Keith can do everything possible on the Vodafone network to find out who owns the pig. But actually, the power of connecting is the universal human truth we're trying to bring to life."
But by telling this story, Vodafone also makes a bold statement in saying that its technology can reliably connect people across the nation when it matters. And this is a risky claim to make in light of the fact that network outages are always a possibility.
"Fortunately, outages are few and far between," says Allerston. "We've hardly had any outages in the 20 years we've been in New Zealand. The other thing is that we've invested a billion dollars in the last five years in our network and we continue to invest in it. Our role, fundamentally, is to maximise and optimise our network and that's what the 3,000 people employed by Vodafone are required to do. We're very confident in the strength of our network and that's why we are willing to make bold statements about it."
The 3,000 people employed by Vodafone were also the first people in the country to be given a taste of the campaign through an in-house teaser that saw lost posters of Piggy Sue put up in elevators and lunch areas at the offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
"Staff engagement is a huge part of what communications needs to do to galvanise an organisation," says Mok. "For the organisation to be joined up and believing in its purpose is a really important part of it. A lot of advertising tends to focus on external audiences, and yet the internal audience is just as important."
The new campaign has seemingly been timed to occur when the hype regarding Spark's rebrand has subsided, but De Beucker says that it has in fact been in the works for six months.
Asked whether the Spark rebrand has resulted in Vodafone losing customers, De Beucker said no and pointed out that red telco had added 32,000 mobile customers in the last quarter (Vodafone's highest increase since 2012), lifting its subscriber base to 2.362 million.
The integrated campaign is significant for Vodafone in 2015 and will span TV, in-stream AV, digital display, search, OOH, PR, social media, digital activation and will be supported in-store as it is rolled out.
Consumer Director: Matt Williams
Head of Brand and Insights: Bart De Beucker
Manager Brand and Communications: Nileema Allerston
Network Programme and Communications Specialist: Rose Scott
Agency: FCB New Zealand
Regional Executive Creative Director: James Mok
Executive Creative Director: Regan Grafton
Senior Writer: Matt Williams
Senior Art Director: Freddie Coltart
Head of Integration: Fleur Head
Creative Services Director: Jenni Doubleday
Planning Director: Simon Bird
Senior Planner: Hilary Dobson
Head of Content: Pip Mayne
Producer: Amanda Langkilde
Group Account Director: Karla Fisher
Account Director: Dave Munn
General Manager of PR: Angela Spain
PR Senior Account Director: Joanna James
Production Company Director: Steve Rogers
Production Company MD/EP: Michael Ritchie
Production Company EP/Producer: Pip Smart
Editor/s: Bernard Garry
Director of Photography: Nicolas Karakatsanis
Sound Recordist: Hammond Peak
Production Designer: Margot Wilson
Animal trainer: Hero Animals, Caroline Girdlestone
Post Production: Blockhead
Colourist: Ben Eagleton
Online Editor: Nigel Mortimer
Sound: The Coopers
Sound Engineer: Jon Cooper
Sound Producer: Pen Cooper
Music: Liquid Studios
Composer: Peter van der Fluit
Music Producer: Sarah Yetton