Bigpipe picks iProspect for digital duties, Spark Ventures hunts for future millions

After a competitive pitch, Dentsu Aegis-owned iProspect has won the digital media account for Bigpipe, a stripped down naked broadband offering that’s part of Spark Ventures. 

iProspect will manage the digital planning and buying across bought, owned and earned channels in New Zealand (the incumbent account holder was Dynamo). 

Ollie Smith, head of Bigpipe at Spark Ventures, says iProspect demonstrated a clear balance between performance and brand development, which is critical to its digital marketing strategy.

And Alex Radford, iProspect’s general manager, said: “The team at Bigpipe is genuinely passionate and focused on their goal of providing best in breed broadband services, and here at iProspect we are really excited to be part of the team. For iProspect, it is great to work with a digitally native brand that is nimble and ambitious to try new things, whilst being firmly grounded in data and fully appreciates the value of understanding your audience. Over the past year iProspect has invested heavily in digital talent across SEO, digital strategy and performance so it’s great to see that our vision of being New Zealand’s most sought after digital performance agency is becoming a reality.” 

Bigpipe is one of the new businesses being fostered by Spark Ventures alongside Lightbox, Skinny, Qrious, Vigil, Digilife and App La Carte. And the brand has been promoting its wares on digital channels and through social media, recently running a competition asking fans to rejig their logo. 

Rod Snodgrass, chief executive of Spark Ventures, says he’s a less is more guy when it comes to markets and product strategy and “more complexity means more cost being driven into your business in the back end”. As such, Bigpipe only has two staff, and it doesn’t have an inbound call centre, it doesn’t do modems, it doesn’t do above the line marketing and it doesn’t do integrated billing. 

“With [connected home technology]Digilife we’re focusing on what are the two or three use cases, not 15-20 use cases. We’ll do a few big things really well and add around the edges. … And with Big Pipe, the only way we could get cheaper broadband profitably was to rip all the costs out. So we built an ISP where we looked at all the things that caused people to call and we designed them out. Because customer service for me is just an outcome of poor customer design.”

He says Spark’s group strategy has four key themes: 1) revolutionising the customer experience 2) simplifying the business 3) winning key markets and 4) winning future markets in growth. And Spark Ventures, which Snodgrass says is less a distinct technology and innovation unit and more a portfolio of businesses that leverage shared technology, was forged in the fires of goal number four. 

“To do that you need to do something different. You’re entering markets where you don’t have privileged assets or experience.” 

He says the businesses are already generating millions in revenue for Spark and it’s got aspirations of generating hundreds of millions in the years to come. At present, it’s a tiny slice of total revenue, of course, but it’s about looking ahead and offering a “proof point” for how things could be done, whether that’s by using different tools and software (Spark Ventures uses “cheaper, faster, better” Google Apps and Macs and none of the corporate tools, he says), or taking a different approach to developing new products.   

“What you find with telcos is that things usually start with a technologist saying ‘I’ve got a technology, and it may be a product and it could solve a problem but we haven’t found what the problem is yet’. So we always start with ‘what is the problem, what is the experience we can create?’ … We’re here to make magic, create value for shareholders and develop new ways of doing things that will become the standard ways with Spark over the next few years. It’s about being agile, being awesome at digital and getting better at building partnerships, which telcos haven’t traditionally been very good at.” 

He says it works alongside Spark, not inside them, “if you know what I mean”. And it tries to create things on the outside and push them in where it makes sense, but in a managed way. That’s what it’s done with WiFi on Spark’s phoneboxes, which has become a point of difference worth promoting. And he says there’s a chance Spark retail might be able to bung their brand on the Bigpipe model in the future without having to build it themselves.

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