It’s no longer ‘Power to you’. Vodafone is now asking the question: ‘The future is exciting. Ready?’ in the newest iteration of its endline, which will be rolled out tomorrow (6 October) alongside a new 2D logo across its largest ever global campaign.
The creative focuses on the evolution of the telecoms brand and communications at large, taking the viewer on a journey through calling up operators in the 1960s to picking up the heavy bricks of the 1980s. The bulk of the film, however, concentrates on the future – the key focus of Vodafone’s repositioning.
Orange once said that ‘The future’s bright’ but for Vodafone, in a strapline almost uncomfortably close to its once-rival, the future is going to be ‘exciting’. The ‘Ready?’ (always to be followed by a question mark) is, according to the group’s chief commercial operations and strategy officer, Serpil Timuray, “not about questioning the readiness" but "an invitation for everyone to embark on this exciting journey ahead, and to enjoy the benefits of future technologies”.
‘The future is exciting’ will be translated into each market’s language, however ‘Ready?’ will remain in English on each strapline. The campaign will be rolled out across all of the countries in which Vodafone operates – 36 to be exact.
After yet another week of global crises, Vodafone’s peppy optimism may be hard to swallow. However the brand’s new strategy and creative has been rigorously tested – ‘quantitative and qualitative inputs’ from nearly 30,000 people across 17 countries gave it the go-ahead.
The positioning was also thoroughly researched. The network commissioned YouGov to conduct an opinion poll of almost 13,000 people in 14 countries in order to review the extent to which the public are optimistic – or pessimistic – about their future prospects. The market research firm found that, despite the multiple global threats rearing their heads across the globe, respondents of all age groups believe ‘their own living standards, and those of children, will have improved 20 years from now’, and that people of all ages believe that ‘technology innovation will have the most positive influence on the future over the next 20 years’.
Timuray contends that the new campaign did not come from Vodafone working backwards from a creative hook, or backing up the initiative's commercial efficacy with data retrospectively.
“This was not something that we went into with an agenda,” Timuray told The Drum. “We wanted to understand what the future aspirations are of different cultures and what their attitude to all this technology is.
“We were positively encouraged to see that there is a general consensus that people are optimistic about the future, despite some of the pressing issues we are facing in different markets. People are in general more optimistic than not and … we found technology is one of the levers of optimism because people are already seeing the benefits of technology in their lives and how their lives are changing.”
‘Hello!’, the campaign’s flagship ad, was produced by Ridley Scott Associates and devised by Vodafone’s bespoke Gloval Team Red agency assemblage from WPP, led by Santo. As a diverse mix of people around the world discover the power of new technologies, such as the internet of things and wearable tech, changing by Sigma featuring Paloma Faith provides the soundtrack – an interesting choice seeing as the song was first used in HSBC’s Apple Pay ad back in 2015.
As a global brand, however, it is the universal visuals that tell the story. Was it difficult to create a spot that would not only make sense in – but resonate with – consumers in 36 countries?
“It really wasn’t,” said Sara Oliveira, Vodafone’s global head of brand and media, “because it was co-created with the markets. We could have picked one leader market and done all the consumer research there, but that was not our approach at all. We did research in 10 markets and I think this is the beauty of the whole process. There were more similarities between the markets than we were expecting.
“All over the world … people were saying: ‘We want a brand who will partner with us on this journey [into the future]’. And it was this partnership that we then tried to bring out in all of the advertising.”
The ad barely features a mobile phone at all, signifying Vodafone’s serious intentions to be known not as an heritage telecoms firm, but as a brand ready to guide consumers through tech revolutions in the future it’s so excited about. Yet it’s still sticking to its roots in the human voice with a modern day iteration of its speech mark logo, rendered in 2D rather than the 3D of the past, and graphically overlaid over all of B2C and B2B communications and marketing.
Vodafone came under some professional fire at the press conference held to announce the brand news. Its reps were pulled to task on the network’s less than perfect record of customer service (earlier this year, for instance, Vodafone was jointly rated the UK’s worst mobile phone provider by Which?) and asked if the campaign represented "a fresh start for Vodafone".
Not answering the question entirely, Timuray responded: "We recognise that our UK operation has gone through some challenges, but thanks to our Customer Experience Excellence programme we have been significantly improving our customer experience. We are now at an all time low for scores regarding some of the customer operations metrics issues and we will keep progressing on that."
Not all consumers and marketers will buy into the optimism of ‘The future is exciting. Ready?’ But the messaging and new campaign will, at least, serve as an interesting, futuristic distraction while the brand irons out kinks in its current form as a good old fashioned mobile phone network.