Award-hoggers set to part ways as Orcon supposedly says so long to Special

It was fun while it lasted, but it seems Orcon and Special Group have split up.

Neither Quentin Reade, the new brand and comms guy at Orcon, or Special Group’s creative director Tony Bradbourne had anything to add to the statement released a few days ago saying the account was up for review. But a reliable source has told us that Orcon has found a new agency.

As for who’s taken over the account, that’s still unclear (but apparently it’s not Droga5).

In a way, the relationship was good for both parties. Special Group (which, slightly ironically, picked up the NBR’s agency of the year award along with Colenso BBDO yesterday) raised its head above the parapet after the Cannes success for ‘Orcon + Iggy’ and was quickly regarded as a bit more than your usual indie.

And Orcon also gained awareness. But the success of the campaign was obviously something of a mixed blessing because it led to the inevitable growing pains and, following some technical issues and outages and what seems to be an increase in negative chat about Orcon’s customer service recently, it hasn’t been able to deliver on those promises with its products.

As a brand, it’s still regarded as being slightly elitist and inward-looking and has been accused of focusing too much on trying to be cool (and on using the colour purple), rather than trying to acquire, retain and decrease churn, which is what the hugely competitive telco biz is all about. I’ve had some issues with Orcon’s customer service in the past and anecdotally, there seems to have been many more aggrieved customers who, despite showing an interest in joining, haven’t actually been unable to.

There have been a few naysayers that have claimed Special’s creative work didn’t bring business results. But the advertising doesn’t really seem to be the main issue. Admittedly, the Air Points campaign fell a little bit flat. But Orcon + Iggy won three Effies (read the case study here) and the sales results are there for all to see. Added to that, the ‘Living Office’ banner was phenomenally successful in achieving its goal of drawing attention to Orcon’s business offering.

As well as Reade, Orcon has recently welcomed a new head of sales and a new head of marketing, so, as is often the way, change was afoot. Orcon is also very Auckland-centric and, because it doesn’t have an extensive network of its own throughout the country, it’s hamstrung by the tactics of its larger competitors and can’t really compete on price outside the urban centres until it invests in infrastructure.

There’s also a case to argue that Vodafone and Telecom both seemed to realise they’d better up their game after ‘Orcon + Iggy’, which has made life a lot more difficult for the smaller competitors.

But while Special group appears to have lost its endorsement from Orcon, it has gained an endorsement from the NBR’s Barry Colman, who is apparently quite sceptical of smaller agencies.

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