Vodafone plans big return to UK pre-pay mobiles market

Mighty Vodafone is planning to take on O2 and Everything Everywhere (the new owner of Orange and T-Mobile) in the UK pre-pay market this Christmas with a £10m plus ad push. Presumably this will be through BBH, still its official UK agency, although the company may turn to Argentinian interloper Santo which holds the global creative account.

Vodafone has turned its back on the pre-pay market for years, preferring to concentrate on consumer and corporate contract sales. But some 50m of the UK’s annual 80m mobile sales are still pre-pay with pre-Christmas being the biggest period.

The company has also recently introduced a service allowing pre-pay owners to top up their phones via Facebook.

With consumer expenditure in the UK under pressure from fears of government cuts and also the looming January VAT hike to 20 per cent Vodafone has obviously decided that any sales will do. UK phone contracts are widely criticised for being expensive and many users are choosing to buy their own phones, particularly iPhones, and shop around for the cheapest network connection.

Arcadia boss Sir Philip Green is also announcing his suggestion for government savings today and these are bound to include reducing dramatically the number of BlackBerries it dishes out to civil servants, of which Vodafone is the biggest network provider.

As for the agency conundrum a big campaign by Vodafone would be a welcome boost for BBH. But Santo, despite its Argentinian origins, is proving a formidable contender for European business, recently winning Milkybar from JWT London.

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