Telecom comes out of its shell, calls on T-U-R-T-L-E power

Around this time last year there was a glut of ‘manvertising’. And this year it seems as though cute kids are de rigueur, with Civil Defence, Z and Pink Batts all recently enlisting a few young’uns to tell their stories. Now Telecom can be added to that list, because it’s gone back to what it knows best with a brilliant ode to connection featuring a lovable frontman Tommy and his ‘turtle of few words’ Boris. 


Telecom and Saatchi & Saatchi have attempted to tug on Kiwi heartstrings a few times in recent years, with the ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ campaign, which featured a bit of geographical geekery and a couple of tech-savvy kids, and the ‘life starts with tears‘ effort to promote its smartphone network positioning. But neither of them seemed to capture the imagination of the public like this Robber’s Dog-made brand ad should, possibly because, as this guy pointed out, “it’s advertising that doesn’t look like advertising”, and possibly because the Telecom brand seems to be in much better shape than it has been. 

  • Check out what Telecom’s chief marketing officer Jason Paris has to say about the campaign—and the company—here

Here’s what it says on the Telecom website: 

Technology is constantly changing, but one thing that hasn’t changed is our need to connect: with our loved ones, colleagues, customers, suppliers and our friends. And now there are more ways to keep in touch than ever before, from the homephone, to the latest Smartphone, email, Facebook, Twitter and many more. Here at Telecom, we’re always looking at ways to make it easier for you to connect. And with the help of our friends Tommy and Boris, we’ll show you some great technology and market-leading offers so you can connect more—for less.

When Vaughn Davis spoke with Telecom’s ex GM of marketing Kieren Cooney at the start of the year, he admitted the brand had been decimated by the major XT outages when he started in the role, so it basically went into its shell (pun intended) and ”just stopped putting out offers, promotions and advertising”. 

“It was a pretty scary environment, and I felt we didn’t have time to paint the perfect strategy,” he said. “So we just got in there and did stuff. We said, ‘Let’s try and do it well, but let’s attack hard, then while that bullet’s in air, let’s get back and win with a little bit more eloquence.’ So I was a big fan of ‘Win Ugly’ as part of a necessity, rather than it being the overriding ongoing strategy.” 

Fittingly, winning ugly is a favourite phrase of Saatchi & Saatchi chief executive Kevin Roberts, but this ad can undoubtedly be placed in the eloquent category. And Cooney said things had improved greatly by the time he left, with research showing the Telecom brand was in the strongest position it had been in for three and a half years, despite the Abstain from the Game fiasco. 

“So not only has it recovered, which I think is extraordinary to do in a year and a half, but it’s actually gotten better than it was.” 

Cooney guessed his replacement Jason Paris, who didn’t have too much telco experience, wouldn’t be trying to “out-telco the telco people”, he’d be trying to “out-customer them”. And creating a few smiles with a mischievous, endearing, turtle-loving word mangler seems like a good way to do it (no word on whether the surprisingly large turtle I saw luxuriating among the Coxs Bay mangroves last year was a very well-planned experiential component of the campaign).  

In the past, Telecom had a reputation as one of the world’s best advertisers. There haven’t been too many classics in the past five or so years. But, as Cooney explained: 

People don’t understand a brand in isolation. They understand it in the context of other brands, so when you add Vodafone it changes what Telecom means. You add 2degrees and it changes what Vodafone means, so it’s the inter-relationship of those brands. I think Telecom had a heritage-style brand. Then you throw the Vodafone cat amongst those pigeons, which was a voice of challenge. I think the biggest challenge that Telecom had over that period was being consistent. The campaigns for me that really showed what kind of a quality machine Telecom was were things like the Gary $10 Text, where it was able to completely reinvent itself, base itself round some really great customer insights and take itself from a position where it was largely dormant to become the attacker, and do it in just a month or two.

Telecom is currently attempting to do that with its youth-focused, social-centric mobile network Skinny, it’s bumped up the activity on its broadband packages and it’s still got over half of the total residential ISP market and 38 percent of the mobile market. But it’s also got plenty of baggage from the monopolistic years, it’s recently been stung with a record $12 million fine for “unlawfully [taking]advantage of its market power to charge downstream competitors disproportionately high prices for wholesale access to its network” between 1999 and 2004, and it is in for a big fight if Vodafone gets clearance to take over TelstraClear and starts taking aim at the residential and business markets. 

And everyone knows there’s only one proper way to deal with issues of that scale: T-U-R-T-L-E power. 



Client – Telecom – (Jason Paris, Chief Marketing Officer; Charlotte Findlay, Head of Brand & Insight; Arnna Conroy, Senior Comms Manager; Andrew Ridler, Brand Manager)
Agency – Saatchi & Saatchi – (Nicky Bell, CEO)
Executive Creative Director – Antonio Navas
Creative Directors: Guy Roberts, Corey Chalmers
Agency Producer:  Jane Oak
Account Service: Sarah Williams, Brendon McLean, Rachael Williams
Planner: Murray Streets, Ben Fielding
Production Company: Robbers Dog
Director: Luke Shanahan
Film Producer: Mark Foster
Editor: Tim Mauger
Post production: Assembly (3D) and Blockhead
Music composition: Franklin Rd / Jonathan Bree

Audio Post: Franklin Rd / Shane Taipari 

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