‘What Virgin needs.’

Thus began the letter from Gee Jeffery & Partners CD Matthew Litzinger. It went on to describe a clever (possibly deviously so), ad campaign touting an unlimited text messaging plan from prepaid phone brand i-wireless.

Thus began the letter from Gee Jeffery & Partners CD Matthew Litzinger. It went on to describe a clever (possibly deviously so), ad campaign touting an unlimited text messaging plan from prepaid phone brand i-wireless.

It’s likely many advertisers’ fantasy to achieve grassroots chain reaction buzz. Few are willing to push the buttons hard enough to get there. Cincinatti Bell’s intriguing i-wireless work has both the balls and the right ingredients to do so. To get teens’ attention, GJP turned to a whole new language. Literally.

Running in Cincinatti, Dayton and surrounding cities, the core of the campaign is a huge outdoor effort featuring compelling images that scream out for headlines. But instead of copy to supply the context, the images are juxtaposed with… numbers. Code to be exact.

As you stroll past a hoarding you spot an arresting image of two women kissing. If you are text

message-literate, you key the numbers plastered across the graphic smooch into your mobile and get the translation: ‘you wish.’ Otherwise, your only clue as to what it’s about is a logo tucked away in a corner with the cue ‘unlimited text messaging push-buttons.com.’

So, for teens the campaign is funny and sexy. For adults without access to predictive text-enabled wireless, the messages remain a mystery. (This is the group most likely to find it all a bit too hot for the Bible belt.) Parentco Cincinatti Bell is not mentioned in the campaign, to avoid any link to ‘your

parent’s phone co.’

Litzinger says they, ‘hopped on predictive first’ with this campaign. But, the consumer insight driving it is age old. As per Litzinger, the way you make something cool for teens is to rebel against or alienate something, and a logical object is adults. ‘We said: ‘Hey, let’s do ads adults don’t even get’.’

Then it was just a matter of Litzinger, writer Adam Bailey and AD Andrew Hart playing with the phones and deciding how to execute on that. When they first got the brief, Litzinger says he referenced a PS2 UK launch billboard that from a distance, looked like a woman’s eyes widened in shock. When you got closer, you saw the image was made out of the symbols on controller buttons, but icons many adults wouldn’t be familiar with.

The i-wireless adverts also ran in urban dailies, and radio and TV spots play on the theme as well, but not so edgy as to irk the FCC. The TV execution is a locked off camera showing a snowboarder doing

aerial tricks, then pulls back to reveal his platform is a trampoline. The number code tumbles into letters that reveal: ‘Off season.’ The ads all direct viewers to the Web site.

On the site you can upload your own images and add whatever words you want. The site then lays it all out like the ads, with the code, and kids are putting their own custom posters up in their lockers.  Another outreach DIY component is T-shirts with iron-on number stencils, sold on the site and in malls. Predictably, kids are wandering around with some fairly inappropriate messages, while parents and teachers are oblivious.

There’s also a street team element. i-crews, the kids who other kids wanna be, cruise around in Honda Elements, and hand out stuff like games and decals at events.

Litzinger says the campaign, which launched this summer, is making noise in the Midwest, and

figures they have another two to three months before the powers that be crack down. Which he hopes they do, as that will take it to a whole new level of lovin’ it for the teen target. ‘As soon as you say don’t touch the cookies, you sell a lot of cookies.’ Two executions have already received push back, one being the two women kissing. The other is an image of a hand gun, ‘But when they find out we said

‘epidemic’ we get applauded,’ says Litzinger.

client: Nathan Stierwalt,

brand manager Cincinatti Bell

agency: GJP Toronto and Cincinatti

CDs: Matt Litzinger, Chris Heile

CWs: Adam Bailey, Brian Grossman

ADs: Andrew Hart, Eric Jones

photographer: Eden Robbins, some stock

illustrators: Adam Bailey,

Andrew Hart, Eric Jones


CW: Nathan Dye

AD: Eric Jones

Web site

CD: Brady Gilchrist

manager interactive: Nicole Milette

interactive developers: Stan Nikitierowicx,

David Neumann

You are cordially invited to submit your new, dead clever and previously unrevealed campaigns to: editorial director Mary Maddever at mmaddever@brunico.com and creative director Stephen Stanley at sstanley@brunico.com, co-curators of strategy’s Creative space.