FutureFive NZ - Telecom cracks the whip over CDMA users

Warning: This story was published more than a year ago.

Telecom cracks the whip over CDMA users

Update: Telecom has gotten in touch to clarify that the cheapest handset option available to prepaid CDMA customers is $79, and postpaid customers are offered a free handset when they sign up for another 24-month postpaid plan.

Story: Comfortingly familiar, a little worn around the edges and nearing retirement.

It’s a description many owners of Telecom CDMA handsets would use for their aging phones.

It also works to describe the celebrity the company has hired to encourage them to ditch the devices.

Iconic broadcaster and raconteur Gary McCormick is the face of Telecom’s campaign to switch older users from the company’s old CDMA network and onto XT.

Last month this column speculated that Telecom’s soon-to-be-launched youth sub-brand Skinny would be called on to play a major role in converting young people across to XT.

That still seems likely, but for the older demographic of CDMA users, probably numbering at least a few hundred thousand, McCormick is the perfect personality to give them a gentle nudge towards the nearest Telecom shop.

If you haven’t seen the ads, you can get a feel for the type of gentle but firm change-over message Telecom and Gazza are pushing by looking at this advertorial Q & A piece placed on the popular GrownUps website.

Given that Telecom is asking its CDMA user base to spend at least $99 on a new handset, at a time when they could very easily abandon the company for Vodafone or 2degrees, the switchover campaign requires some serious marketing finesse. But they’ve pitched it very nicely, have chosen an ideal spokesperson and have integrated the advertising with a sophisticated yet straight-forward website for making the transition as simple as possible.

In his radio roles McCormick has been known to dish out the occasional negative comment when the talkback conversation topic has turned to Telecom. He’s also given Vodafone the odd serve. Perhaps that combination amounts to a perception of even-handedness which will prove to be a plus for the credibility of the switch-over campaign.

Interestingly enough, however, in one of Telecom’s darkest marketing hours, McCormick turned out to be one of the company’s strongest supporters. Yes, while thousands threw up their hands in horror at the infamous "Abstain for the Game” ad concept a few months ago, Gary went on record saying he liked the idea.

"It’s a brilliantly funny idea,” he told Radio New Zealand listeners on Jim Mora’s afternoon show. "I personally will abstain ... even if I’m the only person in New Zealand.”

Was he just being nice to Telecom back then so they’d give him a job? It would be unkind to even suggest such a thing.

What I will say is that with McCormick front and centre it’s become just that little bit harder for CDMA folk to abstain from switching to XT.

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