As relaunches go, this is a biggie. Vodafone, the world’s second largest mobile phone operator, tomorrow launches the biggest advertising campaign in its 33-year history.
Out goes the ‘Power to You’ strapline the company has used in all of its advertising and marketing campaigns since 2009, and in comes a new slogan: ‘The future is exciting. Ready?’
That appears to have been inspired by one of the advertising industry’s most famous catchlines of all time, also from the mobile sector: ‘The future’s bright, the future’s Orange.’
The language used in the straplines will vary from country to country so, for example, in Italy, it will be ‘il futuro e straordinario. Ready?’, while in Spain, it will be ‘El future es apasionate. Ready?’
Staying in place will be the Vodafone ‘speech mark’ logo that was created in 1998.
Vodafone is not saying how much the campaign will cost. But this is a company which, three years ago, was reportedly spending some £600m annually on advertising and marketing.
And with the minute-long lead advertisement in the campaign having been produced by Oscar-winning film director Ridley Scott, the man behind the original Blade Runner and whose company has been involved in post-production of the new Blade Runner 2049, it is unlikely to have been done on the cheap.
Nearly 30,000 people in 17 countries had input into the new branding through market research.
According to Serpil Timuray, Vodafone’s chief commercial operations and strategy officer, the aim of the campaign is to harness the company’s branding to the optimism of consumers about the future and to the positive ways in which technology is going to change people’s lives in coming years.
Image: ‘The future is exciting. Ready?’
She told Marketing Week: “We were conscious that technology is really changing at a very fast pace and that there are new digital services that are emerging. We also have a full range of initiatives that we are working on and we are conscious that these will transform the ways consumers and businesses live their lives.
“We thought we could take a role in bridging these new technologies that may not look accessible for everyone and making them very daily, simple and useful. So we identified a customer need to understand better how these technologies will be in their daily lives and the customer need for a brand to partner with them.”
The press release and stock exchange announcement heralding all this is full of marketing guff about how “the ‘speech mark’ will now appear as the central graphical focus” and how “the logo will also appear in a new 2D design in place of a skeuomorphic 3D approach”.
However, boiled down into the straightforward business of selling more mobile phone contracts, essentially Vodafone is saying that, for any consumer who is at all confused about the way in which technology is going to change their life, it wants to be the company that holds their hand.
It is quite a difference from previous, earlier, Vodafone marketing drives that had a relatively simplistic approach to selling the product.
In the early days of mobile, it was all about ‘land grab’, involving sponsorships of the England cricket team – buccaneering former chief executive Sir Chris Gent was a cricket fanatic – or Manchester United, which in 2000 signed a then-enormous £30m four-year sponsorship deal with the company.
The adverts frequently centred around catchy songs and images of beautiful people doing aspirational things.
The campaign, which featured ‘Bohemian Like You’ by US indie-rockers The Dandy Warhols and ran from 2001 to 2006, is still regarded as a classic of its kind.
That crash-bang-wallop approach still lives on in some territories. A third of Vodafone India’s entire marketing spending goes on activities around the colossal Indian Premier League cricket tournament.
But what Vodafone is attempting to do here is altogether more subtle.
The most famous dictum in advertising is attributed to Lord Leverhulme of Lever Brothers, the company that ultimately became Unilever, who said: “Half of my advertising budget is wasted. The problem is that I don’t know which half.”
The question all of the advertising and marketing industry, not to mention the mobile communications sector, will be asking here is whether Vodafone is trying to be too clever by half.