Deconstructing the Bell, Rogers, Telus Wireless Auction Ad

Bell, Rogers, Telus Ad in Aug 21 Toronto Star

Toronto Star Ad Page 2

There was a two-page ad from Rogers, Bell and Telus in today’s Toronto Star attempting to explain their case against the rules for the pending wireless auction.

The idea is a good one, and brave. I can imagine it must have been a Herculean effort to get these three competitors to get into a room and develop and agree upon a message. Unfortunately, their efforts fell a little flat. I’ll explain where I think they went wrong and what they could have done differently.

The three arguments put forward in the ad are that the competition is unfair and favours the US company Verizon; will cost taxpayers money to subsidize foreign companies’ bids; and that rural areas will suffer because US competitors will focus on urban markets, forcing Canadian companies to follow suit.

The fairness argument gets lost in industry jargon and the assumption that consumers will understand the structure of the auction and how the “blocks” that are being auctioned work. In general, the “big, bad Americans” argument misses the mark when the ones putting it out there are considered monopolistic behemoths by many Canadians.

The second point argues that Canadians will be picking up the bill for subsidizing the Verizon bid with their tax dollars. Maybe, but if I don’t know how, I can’t come to judgment and the ad doesn’t give me that information. It is also difficult to get people to consider the implications of tax dollars being spent for one thing versus another in the face of having to pay those taxes anyway. Especially when the counter argument is lower wireless rates, which come directly from consumers’ wallets.

Finally, the argument that rural Canada will suffer basically states that Verizon will focus growing business in big cities and that will force Bell, Rogers and Telus to do the same. That may be true, but the cynic in me wonders if that isn’t where they focus already. Isn’t that where the majority of customers reside?

The call to action is also a lost opportunity. It directs consumers to a website ( to learn more about the issue. The website, by the way, is beautifully designed. Kudos to the developer. But not having made a very compelling case for themselves, I’m not sure it will drive much traffic there (or how they will know if visitors came from this ad without a customized URL).

The flaws in the arguments, though, are not the biggest problem with the ad. By trying to reframe the issue, they have ignored the one issue consumers are certain to care about: what this auction will mean for their own wireless bills.

A better approach might have been to address the short-sightedness of the price issue (presuming it is short-sighted), making the case it will cost jobs and reduce investment in innovation. Follow that with a call to action that encourages participation in the debate, not just education. Maybe next time.

You can still impress with simple gestures

Happy customersA great impression doesn’t have to come from something big, or even something tied to your core product or service.

I’ve previously written about how small things can make a big difference to a customer experience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to get the big things right, too, but it’s often the small, unexpected things that leave a lasting impression.

Recently I bought a new iMac from the online Apple store. After spending hours agonizing over how fast a processor I needed, how much memory, what other add-ons I should get, I finally clicked the Process Order button. What followed was a sensation that reminded me of how I felt as a child when I would find my Christmas presents hidden away in my mom’s closet weeks before Christmas. I knew what was coming, but all I could do was wait, and wait.

After a day I got a confirmation email that my new Mac had shipped. The delivery date was four or five days out. It seemed a little long, but it was coming form California to Toronto, by ground I surmised.

The next day, though, while I was doing some yard work in front of my house, a FedEx van pulled up and there was my new computer. I have no doubt that Apple padded the delivery date to account for worst case scenarios and to ensure they under promised and over delivered. It’s simple concept, but it still works. I was thrilled. I had already resigned myself to the worst case scenario delivery date and they amazed me by killing it.

It’s not a hard thing to do, and it’s a far cry form their core competency, but they clearly spent some time orchestrating and opportunity to surprise me. Never under estimate the ability of the seemingly simple to improve a customer experience.

There are lots of small opportunities to amaze your customers in areas they don’t expect, an in ways that don’t cost you a lot of money. Find some of them, it’s worth it.

Can Castro Run a Start-Up?


What happens when your whole country is a factory in a post-industrialist economy?

I’m on vacation in Cuba, sitting pool-side and reading Ctl Alt Delete by Mitch Joel. As I read the chapter on thinking like a start up, I am struck by the contrast to that mindset encouraged by the socialist economy down here.

In his book, Joel argues that the economy and the way we work is changing and those who succeed during this period of change will be those who treat their jobs and their lives like a start up. That means being willing to take risks, to change course, adapt, work hard, look to the edges to find opportunities to make a difference and, above all, find ways to start things.

Companies like Zappos, Apple, and Disney teach and empower their employees to think and act like this. The results are stories of tremendous customer experiences, leading edge products and really happy customers that buy more and spread the word.

Contrast that to the corporation that is the country of Cuba – all industry government owned and all workers with their assigned tasks and wage. Each person has a job. They have a standard wage attached to that job, and very little likelihood of change or advancement. Take the microcosm of the resort I’m at. If you are in the gift shop at closing time, for example, they will not sell you anything. Their job is to work the register and that stops at closing time. Come back tomorrow if you want that item so badly.

Our resort lost power for a day while I was down there. Despite some concerned customers, the staff went about their normal jobs, refusing to deviate. If part of their job was affected by the lack of power, that part didn’t get done. There was no adaptive thinking.

The front desk wouldn’t change any money because the computer was down, despite having the rates posted on a sheet of paper and a calculator on the desk. The bar, having brought in canned beer on ice when the draft pump stopped working, would not let me take a can and insisted on pouring it into wasteful, little plastic cups.

We spoke to a lifeguard who told us that, because there is no incentive to work harder, people perform their job description to the letter and no more. There is nothing to gain; no raise, no promotion, no bonus. No reason to find ways to be great, or new ways to do things.

In this state of flux that the world economy is in, I wonder how long a socialist economy like Cuba’s can last. How long before economic pressure forces a change? How long can the commodity of a beautiful beach and great weather overcome this gap?

Could we see the demise of the industrial economy on a country-wide scale in this little tropical paradise?

I know I am straying into political realms a bit here, but the alignment to what thinkers like Joel and Seth Godin write about in terms if the impact on companies completely applies here, I think. It’s a fascinating case study, don’t you think?