BC TEL ads ring true for 3 sectors

In a campaign to promote its residential long-distance savings plans, the British Columbia Telephone Company has gone beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.Susan Reid, advertising specialist with bc tel, says the company has produced tv commercials to appeal to three distinct segments of...

In a campaign to promote its residential long-distance savings plans, the British Columbia Telephone Company has gone beyond a one-size-fits-all approach.

Susan Reid, advertising specialist with bc tel, says the company has produced tv commercials to appeal to three distinct segments of the residential market – well-educated young people who have been shut out of the job market, families with children, and parents whose children have left home.

‘People want to be spoken to in a language that is meaningful to them,’ Reid says.

‘I think from bc tel’s perspective, we recognize it’s important to be able to speak their language, otherwise your message could get missed,’ she says.

Bruce Tait, director of account planning at Vancouver-based McKim Baker Lovick/BBDO, says the bc tel residential campaign is a departure from the ‘generic get-the-long-distance-feeling type of thing that has been done for years.’

‘In the past, `telcos’ looked at the business side and the residential side as two broad segments,’ Tait says.

‘But our qualitative research showed that with both business and residential customers, what they really wanted was more personalized service, a greater understanding of what they were all about,’ he says.

At the same time, Tait says bc tel saw it as a chance to generate consumer loyalty as the company enters an era of competition.

One of the commercials, ‘Degree in Life,’ shows a young man walking down a road in Australia. In a voiceover, he says it seems like he was born 10 years too late.

‘The good jobs are gone,’ the young man says. ‘Along with the cheap homes and cars. So I decided to go back and get a degree in life.’

The hero meets two Canadian women and they share some adventures. When he returns to Canada, he maintains the relationship through long-distance telephone calls.

The commercial is directed towards members of ‘generation x’, an over-educated, underemployed group born in the years after the baby boom.

Tait says that despite their limited income, they represent a potentially lucrative market for bc tel because of the importance they place on their relationships with friends.

‘In focus groups, they used phrases like `contact is oxygen,’ ‘ he says. ‘They really need to keep in touch with people who have an understanding of who they are.’

As well, they tend to be travellers.

In the second commercial, ‘Oceanographer,’ a mother recalls how her daughter always loved the water.

The scene is intercut with images of the daughter working as a marine biologist. The commercial ends with the mother apologizing for getting the daughter out of the water to answer the phone.

This commercial is aimed at the ‘empty nesters’, 40+ parents whose children have left home.

Tait says it is hard convincing these people to use long distance because they have been brought up to use an egg timer to limit their calls.

Aired for the first time Nov. 9, the third commercial encourages thirtysomething parents to strengthen the bond between their teenage offspring and their grandparents.

‘Payback’ shows a hip teenager talking on the phone to her grandfather and asking him if ‘mom was born old.’

The grandfather tells her about the rebellious things her mother did when she was a girl. ‘But now she has you sweetheart. It’s payback time,’ he laughs.

‘This is our toughest challenge,’ Tait says.

‘Young families are more insular,’ he says. ‘Their life is centred around their immediate family. Even if their parents are far away, they generally call only out of guilt.’

‘We saw a lot of the people within this group wanted to get back to neo-traditionalist values – home and hearth.’

The strategy was to show how long-distance telephone calls could be used to connect grandchildren to their grandparents.

Tait says that while McKim stays on top of societal trends through journals such as the Yankelovich Monitor, the agency relies heavily on account-specific research.

He says in bc tel’s case, focus groups were employed to define strategy, and again to refine the rough creative, adding qualitative observations were cross-checked with statistics to verify each market’s potential.