Years ago, when Windows 95 was all the rage, my father would gather around family friends and gloat about how proficient my youngest brother, then around three, was at using a mouse to open folders and access the games held within them. Ohhhs and ahhs would invariably punctuate every click along the way, and my little brother's efforts would eventually be rewarded with a series of taps on the head. Looking back now, what was once regarded as an almost wizard-like skill for young'uns to possess has become as commonplace as the ability of toddlers to count to 100 or tie their shoelaces.
Over the last decade, new digital products have flooded onto the market and spilled over into the hands of an entire generation of children. In lieu of putting a video tape into the VCR and playing a cartoon, many parents desperate for a break now give their children an iPad to play with. In many instances, technology has become an integral part of children's lives. And while parents have no difficulty controlling what their kids access in the early stages of their technological journey, the process of moderating content becomes more difficult as children become older and more adventurous (particularly in the online space).
Modern parents are at times ill-equipped to face these challenges—such as cyber bullying, screen addiction, inappropriate selfies and unsavoury browsing—in that they have no prior experience in dealing with issues like these. They are essentially new challenges for a new generation of parents. So, given the treacherousness of the online landscape, Vodafone has in conjunction with NetSafe and The Parenting Place launched a new suite of services that help parents navigate their way through some of these challenges.
At a press even hosted at the Vodafone headquarters in Auckland today, Vodafone consumer director Matt Williams unveiled Digi-Parenting.co.nz, an online hub of articles, videos and printable guides offering practical advice for parents in the digital age.
"Our research shows that families are desperate to simplify their lives, but at the same time they're grappling with the role technology plays in their family and how they can keep their kids safe," Williams said.
As part of the launch, Vodafone has also released a new TVC, developed by FCB, with the aim of driving Kiwi consumers to the new site (kudos to the agency for embracing the single tear).
There is some serendipity to the timing of the release of the campaign, given that online safety has been an important topic this week due largely to the passing of Harmful Digital Communications Bill passing in parliament.
“We’ve been really encouraged over the period of developing this campaign, because there have been media stories and interest in this area for the last three or four months—and, of course, there was also the law change that came in yesterday," says Liz Wilson, Vodafone's head of brand and consumer communications. "So, all the way through the development of the campaign, we had reassurance that we were on the right track. People are hungry for this. Parents don’t know where to go for the information.”
The website is broken down into five categories—digital-savvy parenting, tech and togetherness, learning and fun, staying safe, and Vodafone parenting tools—each of which features a series of articles and videos on topics important to parents.
Vodafone has selected David Atkinson, a presenter from The Parenting Place, to front the online iteration of the campaign. And given that he has since 2006 delivered presentations on digital safety to school kids across the country, he adds a confident and knowledgeable voice to the conversation.
Focusing on net safety is by no means new for Vodafone. The telco has over the last few years introduced several apps aimed giving parents the means to protect their children.
"For the last five to seven years, we’ve already been tip-toeing into what we can do for families," says the telco's head of brand and insights Bart De Beucker. "We already had the Blacklist app, the Drive Safe app, the Guardian app, and we’ve been working in partnership with Netsafe and the Parenting Place. But now, because we see that digital divide happening between parents and kids, we decided to bring it all together."
This campaign follows on from the recent release of Vodafone's endearing ad featuring Piggy-Sue, and De Beucker explains that this is the second phase of a three-stage strategy.
"The second instalment that we saw today is an even bigger statement, in that it’s not about individuals any more; it’s about households and families," says De Beucker. "With Piggy Sue, we wanted to connect from north to south, and in this one we want to connect all families simply and safely."
De Beucker says Vodafone's decision to launch this campaign was driven by the insight that Kiwi families are struggling in this space.
"Research conducted by Vodafone with Family Place shows that 70 percent of parents are worried about security, 50 percent monitor what their kids do online, but 40 percent of parents don’t know how to deal with it. And that is what led us to say, ‘It’s not about products or services; it’s about advice.’”
And while there is a prominent 'for good' element to the campaign in the sense that Vodafone is helping people, the strategy also fits in nicely with the new approach that the telco has adopted with its comms. Previously, De Beucker told StopPress that the telco wanted to shift focus from the specs of the latest devices to what these devices enable, and this was something that he today reiterated.
"What we as a company want to do is not focus so much anymore on the technology as such, because the technology is pervasive in every household with every person. So, talking about the specs and the capabilities of a phone or a tablet or a smartphone isn’t the issue any more. It’s more about what people do with it."
Positioning itself as an expert in net safety is also a competitive play, because it gives the company a strategic point of difference from the other telcos in the market. In much the same way that Spark delivers technology advice through its 'Tech in a sec' platform, Vodafone has now launched its own means through which to engage with consumers in the online space on a regular basis.
"The aim is to keep re-stocking the shelves and ensure that this site is fluid and continues to be relevant, featuring new information as it lands, new links to resources, stories of parents," says Wilson. "Because of our relationship with NetSafe and The Parenting Place, we will meet with them regularly as part of this programme and they will tell about real problems that are starting to emerge."
In addition to featuring expert advice, the various topics also feature a comments section that parents can use to communicate with each other.
"We were guided to ensure that parents could also have a conversation with each other about what they were doing," says Wilson. "Parents were actually saying, ‘Look, I do want to hear from the experts, but I also want to hear about what other parents are doing.’”
The Vodafone Parenting Tools section of the website also provides a touch point through which the telco can educate consumers on the various innovations provided to users, thereby appealing to the maternal and paternal instincts of consumer to protect the vulnerable eyes of the little ones living in the house. And while the other telcos are focusing on how to entertain users through their networks, Vodafone is instead appealing to fundamental desire in parents to protect their children. Whether this approach succeeds in winning new customers is yet to be seen.
Regional Executive Creative Director: James Mok
Senior Creatives: Scott Kelly
Christiaan van Noppen
Head of Integration: Fleur Head
Creative Services Director Jenni Doubleday
Head of Content: Pip Mayne
Senior Producer: Sonali de Silva
Group Account Director Karla Fisher
Senior Account Director: Emma Woods
Senior Planner Hilary Dobson
Media Director: Paul Hamilton
Media Planner/Buyer: Kelly Badland
Head of PR: Angela Spain
PR Senior Account Director: Joanna James
Digital Creative Director: Matt Barnes/Greg Wood
Senior Digital Producer: Nick Pengelly
Digital Designer Andrew Jackson
Brand engagement director: Ele Quigan
Production Company: 8com
Production Company Director: Matt Palmer
Production Executive Producer: Kim Kirby
Editor/s: Philip Horn
Director of Photography: Andrew Stroud
Sound Recordist: Tony Johnson
Production Designer: Jason Johnston
Post Production: Toybox
Colourist: Andrew Brown
Online Editor: Leoni Willis
Post Producer: Al McKay
Sound Studio: Liquid Studios
Sound Engineer: Dan Nathans and Craig Matuschka
Sound Producer: Alva Casey
Composer: Peter van der Fluit Music Producer: Sarah Yetton