Three-pronged campaign for Unitel

In october of 1992, Unitel Communications launched its long-distance service.There was an overwhelming need to acquire customers quickly in order to provide revenue with which to fund this effort - which we at Toronto-based Ogilvy & Mather liken to David's assault...

In october of 1992, Unitel Communications launched its long-distance service.

There was an overwhelming need to acquire customers quickly in order to provide revenue with which to fund this effort – which we at Toronto-based Ogilvy & Mather liken to David’s assault on Goliath.


Goliath in this case is Bell Canada and the Stentor network of regional telephone companies. They possess huge financial resources and data on every long-distance user in the country.

Therefore, when Unitel was launched we had to make advertising dollars go twice as far.

We had three communication objectives: to educate the marketplace about who Unitel was, to stake out Unitel’s positioning as a credible, here-to-stay, attractive alternative to the local phone company and, overwhelmingly, to acquire customers.

In order to meet these objectives we used a multimedia campaign for the launch of Unitel: response television, a newspaper insert and direct mail.

Response television was the driving force for Unitel’s acquisition effort in the fall.

Huge reach

We concentrated on response television because of its huge reach and its cost-effective way to deliver orders.

We developed three 30-second spots and a 60-second spot, all using the 1-800 number in order to enable response.

The creative strategy was straightforward: show that Unitel saves consumers money versus the local telephone company.

The key visual throughout these spots was the telephone sucking up loonies.

This demonstration of Unitel’s savings appeared consistently in all of the launch materials.

The 30-second spots were bought in high-rated programming: news, sports and primetime in order to deliver the maximum awareness.

The 60-second spot was bought in highly-responsive, inexpensive media and delivered maximum frequency which resulted in large numbers of cost-effective orders.

We developed a large, four-page insert to run in newspapers across Canada.

We chose a newspaper insert because it would allow us to communicate more information than a tv commercial could do and it would reach our target in a credible environment in a high-impact way.

The primary role of this insert was, primarily, to educate prospects about what Unitel was and what it did, and, secondarily, to acquire customers.

In the insert we included a 1-800 phone number and fax number, plus a response coupon.

While the television was on-air and the newspaper insert had been distributed, a large direct mail campaign was undertaken.

Direct mail would allow us to zero in on our target and provide prospects with the complete story on Unitel.

We developed two different direct mail efforts: one to small businesses and one to consumers.

For small businesses, we rented lists which consisted of companies of the targetted size and the most likely industries to use long distance.

We mailed key decision-makers a questionnaire in order to ‘qualify’ the mid-sized companies. We then followed up with the appropriate information on the service best suited to their company.

DM targetting

For the consumer direct mail, we focussed our mailing to higher-income, urban names that would be likely users of long distance.

In our mailing, we introduced Unitel and provided prospects with information about several calling plans.

Again, the creative for the small business and the consumer direct mail campaign tied in with the television campaign.

At the end of 10 weeks in three cities, Unitel had received almost 150,000 phone calls from interested prospects. (The actual customer count is confidential.)

The combination of awareness and response-driven media had made the launch of Unitel successful.

By using three distinct media: television, newspapers and direct mail, we were able to take advantage of what each medium does best, thereby creating a comprehensive, hard-hitting message to the marketplace.

Sarah Simpson is an account director at Toronto-based Ogilvy & Mather Direct.