How do you get New Zealanders not only informed about the benefits of ultra-fast broadband, but excited? You create a competition.
Chorus is New Zealand’s largest telecommunications infrastructure company. And as part of a public/private partnership with the government, it has the task of building one of the most ambitious fibre optic networks in the world, delivering ultra-fast broadband services to more than 830,000 homes, schools, hospitals and businesses. It’s also tasked with building awareness and promoting the benefits of UFB to inform Kiwis of the economic and social benefits of this once in-a-generation infrastructure upgrade. Quite the undertaking. But with Colmar Brunton research from 2012 showing 97 percent of Kiwis had heard of UFB, but only 20 percent said they “knew a lot about it”, Chorus realised the interest was there, all it needed to do was educate.
In 2013, Chorus had a goal of having one third of Kiwis adopt UFB, as well as creating global broadband envy, which was a tricky task given many Kiwis were unaware of the benefits of UFB and the uptake of it was low (4.3 percent in September 2013). To drive awareness, Chorus knew it needed to connect beyond early adopters and digital natives and engage the hearts and minds of greater New Zealand. Everyone loves a bit of friendly regional rivalry, and Chorus took that idea and ran with it, creating Gigatown, an educational online and real world competition and marketing campaign.
Launching in October 2013, it was designed to run in two stages. In round one, 50 towns from around New Zealand were invited to sign up to compete in a series of challenges and mini competitions for a place in the finals, where the top five towns would be part of a delegation (two from each town) sent to Chattanooga, the US city that provided the inspiration for the campaign.
Included in the mini contests was an Instagram Dream Home competition that received 4,300 entries about potential services and applications for UFB in the home. Chorus also ran the ‘Gigabusiness’ competition which received 262 video entries by businesses about how UFB would improve and change their business. Another included ‘Giga-schools’ which received 62 video entries about a future day in the life of a connected school. This competition got kids and teachers thinking about the benefits of UFB in the education sector.
This early stage was challenging for Chorus, as it needed to get the public to trust that it would follow through with its promise. Key social media influencers were very vocal, trying to work out what its true motive was. While a lot of the campaign was driven over social media, representatives spent time in towns that were engaged in the competition, meeting with local government and representatives who backed their town’s Gigatown campaigns. Since Chorus sought to give itself a face offline, as well as online, it was able to gain understanding and trust from each competing community.
In the final stage towards the end of last year, five towns (Dunedin, Gisborne, Nelson, Timaru and Wanaka) at the top of the round one leaderboard competed to be crowned the Gigatown and win town-wide access to one gigabit per second (1Gbps) internet connection at entry level wholesale broadband prices; access to two funds worth $700,000 to help support local business and community developments over UFB/gigabit infrastructure; and finally, access to the Co Starters programme run by Co Lab, an incubator for creative business ideas in Chattanooga.
To earn points supporters created relevant discussions on social media with town-specific hashtags and completed different challenges related to the social and economic benefits of the gigabit services. Finally, towns had to submit a ‘Plan for Gig Success’ in written and video form outlining how they would use the service to foster learning, playing and business.
The ‘Plans for Gig Success’ were mentored and judged by a panel of influential Kiwis including Andy Hamilton, Cecilia Robinson, Rod Oram, Sam Johnson, Lillian Grace and Lorraine Menta. The New Zealand public were also called upon to vote online for their favourite plan.
In addition, Chorus created a Gigatown website to implement the campaign and spread awareness, which included a live leaderboard so town supporters could track progress of the competition and learn about the benefits of UFB, which was supported by a series of mini-competitions, blog content and fact-based quizzes.
Paid media featured heavily in the first round to build awareness and included advertising across TV, print, digital and social media channels. Once communities formed and fans and followers grew on Gigatown’s social media pages, Chorus drove communications more heavily through social media.
In an earlier interview with NZ Marketing Chorus spokesman Nathan Beaumont said the length of the campaign, which ran over 13 months, was necessary. “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 it’s all about,” he said. “I think it’s one of those things that gained momentum as we went on, and I think if we had have done it in a shorter time span it wouldn’t have been as successful as it has been.”
At the close of the campaign in November last year, it had garnered more than 5.95 million tweets, at their peak being sent at more than five tweets per second. Chorus not only achieved its goals, it ignited a movement.
Commercially, in just over a year, uptake of UFB increased nationally from 4.3 percent (September 2013) to 13.1 percent (November 2014). The towns that had highly engaged communities participating throughout now have higher uptake. For example, Timaru, a highly engaged town, now has 15.1 percent uptake, compared to Oamaru, which lost traction in the first round, with 9.1 percent uptake.
92 percent of all New Zealanders were reached through locally generated news stories, above the line communications or social media conversations. Gigatown achieved unprecedented social success with over 5.95 million conversations held on social platforms, making #Gigatown the most popular conversation on social in New Zealand in 2014 (although there was some backlash to the social spam the campaign unintentionally invited).
The conversations created in social media went from being relatively uninformed about UFB, with only 30 percent of posts measuring positive in November 2013, to 94 percent measuring positive in November 2014.
All five finalist towns now have a documented ‘Plan for Gig Success’ and all have invested in their digital strategies. Dunedin City Council also voted in May this year to invest $250,000 in support of Gigatown projects in Dunedin, the winning ‘Gigatown’.
Dunedin now has almost 1,000 gig connections since gigabit services launched in February 2015. In just a few months the city also has more gigabit connections than Chattanooga, even though gig infrastructure launched there in 2010. In April this year, Dunedin was also ranked first in Australasia and second amongst the world’s wealthiest cities for broadband speed, clocking 75Mbps average download speed.
To top it all off, during the Gigatown campaign, people spent more time on Gigatown.co.nz than they did on any other telecommunications website in New Zealand and Gigatown generated an estimated media value of $32 million for Chorus.
It all just goes to show a little bit of patience and the advantageous use of New Zealand’s competitive nature can go a long way.
“This paper is an example of a brand engaging civil, business and consumer approaches to deliver its message through a programme of activities that has thus far accelerated the uptake of fibre in New Zealand communities and heightened our understanding of the benefits it can bring.”
Chameleon Partners, Waxeye, Contagion
Technology: Fuji Xerox New Zealand (Versant 2100 Launch); Tait Communications (Tait Tough). Utilities: Slingshot (website rebuild); Trustpower ($49 Unlimited Data Broadband Campaign).