The history behind StarHub's Sparky Commercials
By Howard Toh
It was just over 10 years ago that Sparky first burst onto the Singapore scene, creating a wave of delight and excitement amongst Singaporeans for StarHub’s latest “Coverage” campaign, as it was then called.
As the Marketing Communications manager in charge of the Mobile business at that time, Yasmeen Hameed-Chan was tasked to come up with a “Coverage” campaign, riding on the latest QOS results published by IDA, indicating StarHub had 100% network coverage and 0% dropped calls.
Instead of merely creating advertisements shouting on the above facts, Yasmeen wanted to do things differently. She felt that there were two important points that needed to be addressed: 1) Negative Perceptions 2) Power of Word-of-Mouth
#1: Negative Perception – when StarHub 1st arrived in the Singapore market, they created waves by offering Free Incoming Calls on mobiles. Although extremely innovative and resulting in switching people over, customers started having negative experiences with lack of network coverage across Singapore. However, even though StarHub progressively added on base stations and boosted its coverage, this initial negative perception stuck.
So the question was – how to change initial negative perception? Would just sharing some hard facts from IDA, shouting that we had improved, we have 100% change anything? Clearly not.
#2: Power of WOM – Yasmeen noted that the people who were complaining were either the early users of StarHub who had negative experiences or non-users of StarHub, who didn’t have any personal experiences but who just heard from other people. The new customers were not complaining.
So, it was evident that initial perceptions were hard to change, and also WOM could really influence even non-users. Which meant, an “in-your-face” campaign would never work for this.
With that in mind, Yasmeen set about briefing then agency, Batey Ads, to come up with a campaign that was subtle, yet clear in the messaging of how StarHub’s coverage is everywhere. Most importantly, she needed the campaign to evoke emotions, she wanted something that would really create affinity amongst Singaporeans for the StarHub brand.
When the agency proposed three concepts, the one that Yasmeen felt was the most compelling, was the one where a mischievous dog swallowed his owner’s mobile phone, and ran off! As the owner kept calling his mobile phone, the phone in the dog’s belly would keep ringing, no matter where he ran to in Singapore – thus subtly implying 100% coverage.
The campaign was completely 3600 – comprising TV Commercials, Print ads, Outdoor Media like Bus and MRT, Cinema and Online. It immediately created a huge buzz for StarHub, and soon the whole nation was talking about this campaign.
What made the campaign even more interesting were 2 On-the-Ground ideas that Yasmeen came up with.
#1: StarHub Coverage Challenge – Inspired by the Coke/Pepsi challenge, the idea was to have a contest at the Sparky roadshows, where there would be three mobile phones, equipped with three different SIM cards from each of the telco operators. The operator logos on each phone would be hidden though, so no one knew which phone belonged to which operator. The audience was asked to make a phone call on each phone and guess which one belonged to which operator.
The point of the exercise was that over 75% couldn’t tell the difference, which reinforced the fact that StarHub’s coverage was no worse than the others.
#2: Free Calls in Taxis – Yasmeen wanted to drive home the message of seamless coverage everywhere, so she conceptualized a plan to fit taxis in Singapore with mobile phones (working together with Nokia for this partnership), so passengers could use the phones to make calls while in the taxis. This was to prove the confidence StarHub had in its network coverage, and address perceptions of high percentage of Dropped Calls.
Riding on the success of the “local” Sparky campaign, Yasmeen extended this to cover International Roaming as well, which showed Sparky around the world, indeed making waves everywhere he went!
Some of my posts are unofficial and may contain personal opinions which may not represent the positions and opinions of StarHub :)
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