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Jason, Tommy and Boris

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It would seem only those with a heart of stone could fail to be swayed by Telecom's latest brand campaign starring excitable eight-year-old Tommy and his new turtle friend Boris. We reckon it's one of the best ads of the year and it sees Telecom heading back to its heartland territory of connectivity and New Zealandness. Here's what chief marketing officer Jason Paris had to say about the thinking behind the campaign—and the state of the company. 

When we talked with Telecom's ex-marketing man Craig Herbison for a feature in NZ Marketing on the uber-competitive telco industry just after the XT outages, he said one of the challenges for Telecom was that many had forgotten it was still the national telco, a local company fighting against a host of multinationals. Of course, it was hard to think of it positively considering all the baggage it carried, not helped by Teresa Gattung's famous line about confusion as a marketing tactic. But by going back to the space it owns; by telling great stories about connectivity and New Zealandness, which is what "Telecom at its best has always done", Paris says this is something the new campaign hopes to change. 

"The reason I joined Telecom is because I believe it is the country's most important organisation and it should be the country's most iconic brand," he says. "Most of us [inside the business] believe that. Now we've just got a few hundred thousand New Zealanders to convince."

With the possible merger of Vodafone and TelstraClear, Paris believes New Zealandness will become even more important to the company, and he says it's something none of the other telcos can match. 2degrees has done a good job playing the patriotic card, but he says a lot of it is price-led. Telecom doesn't want to play in that playground, and while it certainly wants to offer value, it also wants to be a premium offering, hence the brand ads and the story-telling. 

"It's the core of Telecom, so you'll see us pushing that a bit more ... But it's not about doing a Harvey Norman and out-shouting everyone," he says. 

Paris says it's a pretty full on role, but he feels as though it's "a pretty confident organisation at the moment" and "we're in the right territory". 

"We've got a new chief executive [Simon Moutter, who started yesterday], a new board, there's pretty good momentum from a commercial point of view and from a brand perspective that gives us a pretty good launching pad". 

Over the past few years, he says Telecom has been promoting its offerings in isolation, with different parts of the business advertising its own products in different ways. But the Tommy and Boris campaign has been created as a vehicle to house all of those divisions under one, more cost-effective brand umbrella with activity planned on TV, radio and digital. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_F0KUB0puoIt's kicked things off very nicely with the first TVC, shot by Luke Shanahan of Robber's Dog, which shows the world through the eyes of an eight-year-old and Tommy and Boris, will also feature in specific follow-ups based on Telecom's mobile and broadband offers. His parents will also be brought in for the business component. 

As for the shelled star, he says "it has the most amazing turtle life imaginable" and there was plenty of instruction from the SPCA throughout the filming process to show everyone how Boris had to be held. Hell, he even has a turtle handler.  

Telecom has already had plenty of positive feedback about the ad and, entrepreneurs take note, Paris is predicting very high sales of turtles this Christmas as a result of the campaign. 

Despite some fairly persistent rumours, Paris says there are no plans to change agencies and, with the respected duo of Guy Roberts and Corey Chalmers on creative duty, a very solid planning team and Sarah Williams working on the Telecom business, he's very happy with the work of Saatchi & Saatchi. 

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