Bradbury, Ferrier and Rush on whether advertising can save Vodafone

By Brendan Coyne | 22 May 2013

Vodafone continues to shed customers in Australia and the rot shows no sign of stopping, according to the firm's quarterlies posted in London yesterday.

Customers aren't happy, the network issues have not been put to bed, and its rivals are making hay. So can advertising save a product which is seemingly rooted?

"You have to start with the premise that advertising is a tax that you pay for not having a remarkable product," said Naked founder Adam Ferrier. "The worse the product, the more you have to prop it up."

That might become cost prohibitive, he said, "but there are lots of examples throughout history of off-the-boil brands that have been rejuvenated by advertising".

However, there is a caveat. Brand rejuvenation has "mostly been when the issue has been perceptual".

"Within telecoms there are some very simple benchmarks that make is easy to compare whether the product is up to parity with competitors. If it is not, it makes it difficult to prop up with advertising."

Razor co-founder Simon Rush was more economical. Can advertising save a rooted brand? "No," he said.

Pushed, he suggested ad dollars may "buy it some time... but Vodafone has been buying time for god knows how long and the damage is done."

However, Paul Bradbury, head of Whybin TBWA disagreed. Despite the difficulties it faces through word of mouth damage, being "killed" on social, and the ongoing customer class action, it was by no means curtains.

"There are plenty of examples where products have been rescued. It's hard but [advertising] can [save the brand]. They have to take a calculated risk and be more selective about who they target. But they can do it.”

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