Skinny backs down following Vodafone complaint about sponsorship uppercut

Skinny Mobile’s attempt to draw attention to the supposedly profligate ways of Vodafone has backfired slightly after it was forced to modify its campaign and remove pointed references to Vodafone’s sponsorship of the Warriors. 

Spark-owned Skinny’s ‘we only do mobile’ campaign talked up its no frills, low price offer and, to drum that home, it took aim at Vodafone’s sponsorship of the Warriors in the TV ad and in outdoor executions (‘we’d rather support our customers than rugby league teams. Great mobile prices. It’s that simple.’) According to the NBR, Vodafone complained because it was seen as an attack on the Warriors and their supporters. Consumer director Matt Williams also said Vodafone offered more value than Skinny and that its prepay prices weren’t influenced by sponsorship deals. 

Vodafone and Spark/Telecom have had their fair share of legal stoushes in the past, and Skinny brand manager Charlotte White said in a statement: “We agreed with Vodafone to make some minor changes to our current advertising. Our current campaign is about emphasising that Skinny is a no frills prepay brand that has great prices, and the changes we’re making don’t detract from that. We’re aiming to have the advertisement that references rugby league switched out by the end of the week, in line with the switch out of current creative to align with Spark.”

In the re-record White says it also made “a small wording edit” to further clarify that it was owned by Spark. 

Original story July 22:  

The home brand of telcos? Skinny aims to tell its story with new campaign

Telecom-owned Skinny has put its recent (and widely panned) all-singing all dancing ad behind it and launched a new campaign that aims to show Kiwis that it is basically a home brand telco, the cheap, no-frills version of Telecom. And it gives Vodafone a bit of a ribbing while it’s at it.

Created by members of its new consortium, DNA and The Collective, with animation by Yukfoo, it’s a fairly factual spot and lays out the reasons why Skinny is cheaper than its competitors, something that it hasn’t really done too effectively since launching in 2012 (at first it targeted youth and focused on events and social media marketing, but now it has moved back in the direction of value and is using more traditional channels). 

The ad covers the fact Skinny doesn’t have any stores so doesn’t need to pay rent, that it only does mobile, and that since prepay is its only offering customers can’t get locked into a contract “so they have to keep you happy”. It also reminds Kiwis that it’s cheaper because it doesn’t sponsor rugby league teams, which is an obvious dig at Vodafone. And it also points out that it uses Telecom’s infrastructure.

“Our new brand campaign reflects our simple, direct approach. We opted for simple line drawings and animation to reinforce our brand positioning and combo messages,” says general manager of Skinny Mobile Ross Parker, the third leader in about as many years. 

The campaign includes TV, OOH, digital, PR and radio, as well as Skinny’s new website.

Skinny claims New Zealand’s lowest price prepay combo at $16. And in recent months it has added a new $30 Combo which has 1GB of data plus texts and calls, as well as a $40 Combo, which it claims is New Zealand’s first unlimited calling prepay combo to New Zealand and Australia.

Charlotte White, brand manager at Skinny Mobile, says Skinny is moving with a market which is seeing the cost of mobile falling, and it’s offering ever-cheaper prices to consumers “just as our competitors should be doing too.”

In a press release about the campaign, Skinny illustrates this with the 2013 Annual Telecoms Monitoring Report released earlier this year. The report says that while a decade ago New Zealanders were paying some of the highest mobile phone charges in the world (for medium-level mobile users, New Zealand was the fourth most expensive country in the OECD), the current price in New Zealand for a plan with average calling and data use is 40 percent below the OECD average. “Prices for all usage plans have dropped significantly, between 25 percent and 70 percent, over the last three years but prices for plans with high call volumes have stayed persistently above average which is potentially a result of high volume users being less price sensitive,” says telecommunications commissioner Dr Stephen Gale of the report.

Skinny has enthusiastically sponsored events in the past when it was courting younger customers, with Rhythm and Vines, O-Week and the Wellington Sevens on its list. It was also a major sponsor of Big Boys Toys last year. 

“We haven’t locked ourselves in to any sponsorship this financial year, July to July,” says White. “If we did, it would be only a sales site.”

Skinny does not release customer numbers or revenue figures as it says the info is shareholder sensitive. The closest it got was in a release about Telecom’s recent deal with JB Hi-Fi, where it said Skinny “continues to gain momentum in the prepay market after its rebrand in July last year”. But for Telecom Skinny is more than just a revenue generator. One of its main roles is to take some heat out of competitors’ offers, particularly 2degrees, which has taken a big chunk of the prepay market, and dropping the price for a relatively small part of the business like Skinny doesn’t cost Telecom anywhere near as much as it would if its much larger parent company had to drop its prices. 

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