Big name brand ambassadors Bacon and Freeman bottom out in battle of mobile phone networks

There is barely an advertising break on TV without a mobile phone ad. The interesting point is that everyone now has a mobile phone, so what are the networks trying to do? Ultimately upsell. But is the advertising really helping generate potential long term brand growth?

Gone are the days of the iconic ‘Hello Moto’ campaigns of the early naughties, mobile phone advertising is now about functionality, extras, and service rather than product (Apple and Samsung excluded).

For the networks, there is currently a trend of employing brand ambassadors to help drive engagement. In essence, who do you prefer: a famous sidekick turned hobbit (Martin Freeman) or dancer (Footloose) turned agent (Kevin Bacon)?

Kevin Bacon has been the face of EE since 2012, millennia in the world of mobiles and technology. Six iPhones have been released since Bacon first signed on with EE. So how is he performing? In short, badly.

Bacon has not had a big part in generating long term brand growth for EE. According to System1 Ad Ratings, Bacon’s EE ads are generating between 0 per cent/0.5 per cent potential long term growth for EE. In his latest ads, EE has decided to try and drive engagement by factoring in even more celebrities, Delia Smith and Inbetweeners star Simon Bird are the latest to appear and, guess what, have failed – the latest ads are generating potential 0 per cent long term brand growth.

Ad Ratings is a benchmarking tool which measures the emotions the advert generates in the consumer, and the intensity of that emotional resonance. This score is then weighted for business effect and a rating of 1 – 5 stars is produced.

Potential long term brand growth is then predicted based on the star rating. One star equals 0 per cent brand growth; two stars is 0.5 per cent; three stars is one per cent; four is two per cent and five stars is three per cent plus long term growth.

Is there a more positive narrative for Martin Freeman and Vodafone – unsurprisingly, no. Whilst EE is trying to appeal to a slightly younger audience, Freeman’s ads for Vodafone seem misdirected and just confused.

There is no real direction in who the brand is trying to appeal to and what the messaging is. The latest advert for example, where Freeman is on a train and everyone is watching his favourite show is just trite and lazy.

Yes, the advert does demonstrate that you can get Spotify, Amazon, Now TV or Sky Sports with a Vodafone package but does it really generate long term growth? The ad achieved one star in System1’s Ad Ratings scoring; in fact Vodafone, since employing Freeman as its ambassador, has not had an ad score over two stars – so the long term growth potential for the brand is remarkably low.

Not exactly a great return on investment, as Freeman is not going to be the cheapest brand ambassador out there.

So how do the other mobile phone brands compare against the hobbit and the dancer?

O2, Sky Mobile and 3 are all outperforming EE and Vodafone. So is it time to ditch the brand ambassadors and start creating ads of worth? On the evidence of Ad Ratings – yes, it is. Especially when 3’s giraffe/ostrich hybrid is outperforming two Hollywood A Listers.

Tom Ewing is head of communications and market intelligence at System1 Research.

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