‘Grown-up’ 2degrees maintains its mascot, sets sights on richer pickings

When clients shack up with a new agency there’s a tendency to torch the previous work and start afresh. 2degrees and its new partner Special Group certainly took a different approach with their recent business push, but it’s kept Rhys Darby on as the frontman and maintained the quirky, colloquial and self-reflexive style of the previous work for the pair’s first big brand ad. 

“We are really excited about this new campaign from Special, following hard on the heels of the ‘Smartest Business People’ work,” says chief marketing officer Malcolm Phillipps. “‘The Smart Ones’ celebrates those who have said no to their old school telcos. It is a conscious play from us to grow the brand up a bit; being less character-driven in our TVCs (eg no Robin Hood), bringing New Zealanders to the fore, while still retaining the likeability that Rhys Darby delivers so brilliantly.”

The ad was shot by The Sweet Shop’s Stuart McDonald, who’s based in LA, is best known for his TV comedy work like Summer Heights High and first worked with Special Group on TSB’s New to Earth campaign around three years ago. And, just as Kiwibank featured a range of real customers talking about which bank they switched from in its ‘Every Revolution Needs a Leader‘ campaign, all those in the 2degrees ad are customers or in the process of becoming customers. 

No doubt there will be a few at TBWA\ wondering why it lost the 2degrees account after a pitch last year, as this ad is quite similar to some of the brand’s previous work. 2degrees obviously had its reasons for switching, but Special Group’s managing partner Michael Redwood didn’t want to comment on that, aside from saying a great legacy had been left. 

“What we’re doing is evolving,” he says. “It’s an evolution … 2degrees is maturing as a company and it has its sights set firmly on higher-value customers.” 

Redwood says he was extremely impressed with the talents of Darby and pointed out that no special effects were needed for the shot of him balancing on a supermarket trolley. 

The campaign, which launched last night, also includes further TVCs, digital, social media and outdoor. 

2degrees has done a great job of creating a perception that it’s cheap, fair and innovative. And that’s helped it gain a big chunk of the nation’s low-value customers and smash most analysts’ expectations (Phillipps or Redwood wouldn’t comment on customer numbers, but the last publicly available figures in August 2012 showed it had hit the one million mark, an estimated 21 percent marketshare). Before he died in a plane crash last year, 2degrees’ founding chief executive Eric Hertz said he wanted to get one third of the market, or 1.5 to two million customers. That’s entirely possible, but at present its average revenue per user is low in comparison to its major competitors and a Covec report released on behalf of 2degrees in November last year found that it was yet to make significant headway in the large enterprise or government segment.  

As the report said: “2degrees has effectively disrupted the pre-pay segment of retail mobile markets since launching in 2009, but is yet to make a material impact on the more valuable post-pay consumer and business segments. It has not yet entered the corporate market segment in any material way.” 

It has had a few wins in that area, however, with University of Waikato, Victoria University and Summerset Homes recently joining up. 

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