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Lu Galasso Talks Rogers VS. Bell

If you live in Canada, especially Toronto, regardless of if you own and television set or not you’ve likely seen or heard about the “couch” campaigns featuring Bell and Rogers and now Telehop is launching their own (who is Telehop you ask? I have no idea either but apparently they think this will put them on the map). Anyways, for the most part these ads have confused people…why didn’t Bell come up with a rebuttle that was in their own style? Or why did Rogers start openly attacking Bell? As mentioned in the article I will post below, the idea of one big firm attacking another big firm is not a new concept. Think Mac vs PC, although some of my favourite ads, Apple just started outright attacking PC. Well one thing these ads did for sure was reestablish Bell and Rogers as the two biggest phone, internet and television providers in Canada, leaving the others in the dust.

Lu Galsso - Bell vs Rogers

Leslie Scrivener
Feature Writer
It’s time to take another look, says the ad. We did. And still we don’t know: Whose couch is this anyway?

Canada’s communications companies have embraced the same symbol in ads on television, in newspapers, on billboards and transit, and people are talking and blogging about it.

The couch is long, clean and modern. Part of it is red. That must be Rogers. Part is blue. That’s Bell, for sure.

But look – here’s another ad showing the couch with a red cushion, a blue cushion and an orange cushion, which must be, help me here … Telehop, a Toronto-based phone service provider.

Are consumers perplexed? Yes.

“Eventually people will ask, `Who is this for? Is it Rogers? Is it Bell? I’m confused,'” says Anthony Kalamut, chair of creative advertising at Seneca College at York University.

Advertising directors have rarely seen anything like this: Two business giants using an identical image – it’s called a mnemonic, a memory aid – to lure or retain customers while aggressively naming the competition. Seems a little unCanadian.

(Remember the boldness of another blue-red battle – the Pepsi Challenge, when PepsiCo asked people to compare the taste of Pepsi to its rival Coke?)

“I have never seen Canadian companies go that hard directly at each other,” says Paul Haft, a Toronto expert in colour and branding.

The battle waged on a common couch started June 1, when Rogers launched an ad campaign with a two-seater, half red, half blue, saying its home phone service was a better buy – $25 less – than Bell’s.

Bell reacted quickly and launched the couch ad by June 16, this time with five blue cushions and one red, its way of expanding the conversation. The ad notes that Bell has more TV channels and is $25 less expensive than Rogers. Bell also went after Rogers’ wireless service, comparing a Rogers cellphone to a Bell cellphone.

Bell saw the Rogers ad as a direct challenge. Rogers had stepped into the living room and named names.

“It’s not normally our policy to name our competitors in our ads, but we felt our name and products had been used in a misleading way,” says Rick Seifeddine, Bell’s senior vice-president, brand. “We took it on with gusto.”

But was it wise to use an image – the couch – already claimed by its rival?

“It had been established in the marketplace as a metaphor for comparing services,” says David Moore, president and CEO of Leo Burnett Canada, the agency that created the ad for Bell. “There might be an opportunity to reframe it, a way for customers to take a second look.”

There is, he agrees, the “potential for confusion.”

“But more than anything, people are pretty surprised that this is Bell. There’s a new culture that’s nimble and able to up the competitive game in the marketplace.”

Some in the ad business think Bell erred in using the couch.

“When you do parody advertising you have to do it so well people laugh their heads off … or you don’t do it at all. You have to do it in a gutsy manner,” says Geoff Roche, chief creative officer for Lowe Roche.

“It looks a lot like Telus (ads) – it has a lot of white space,” says Haft. “This is a `me, too.’ Instead of something unique and memorable that sets them apart, they are following the lead Rogers started.”

Others think it works.

“The best way to tell the story is borrowing the same imagery,” says Andrew Simon, creative director at DDB. Muddying the water – what’s this ad about? – may be to Bell’s advantage, he adds.

Recently, there have been witty responses to rivals’ competitive ads. Apple placed itself as the cool computer in contrast to the stodgy personal computer (PC) in television ads. Microsoft, unwilling to be portrayed as the goofy guy in a bad suit, responded with famous (Bill Gates and Eva Longoria) and less-known people confidently proclaiming, “I’m a PC.”

That style of creative advertising takes the intellectual high ground, says Anthony Wolch, executive creative director at TBWA Toronto. “Why can’t Rogers and Bell go there?” he asks. Bell should focus on its progressive technologies, he says. “What makes them special and loved by Canadians.”

As for the furniture theme, “using couches or chairs as a mnemonic is about as tired as you can get.”

Rogers views the ads as “tremendously successful” and says 150,000 visitors have taken the company’s online home phone challenge comparing services.

The idea of the couch in a phone ad “is a symbol of family and connection,” says Tracey Tobin, business director at the Publicis agency, which created the Rogers ad. Rogers doesn’t plan a sortie against the latest Bell ads.

Both Rogers and Bell have filed complaints about each other over various ads to Advertising Standards Canada.

Which leaves us with upstart Telehop, the phone service that’s taken a seat on the telecom couch. They added an orange section in their ads, reflecting the company colour. “We figured it was fair game,” says Hersh Spiegelman, Telehop president and CEO. “Here’s an opportunity for us to tell people in a way that bounces off the Bell ad or the Rogers ad. We thought, `Phooey on them. Look at us. We are cheaper. Check us out.’

“We found it’s been extremely effective.”

Still, Spiegelman is surprised about the brassy way Rogers went after Bell. “Had Ted Rogers been alive, I don’t think Rogers would have done this.”

Canada’s other major communications server, Telus Corp. hasn’t joined in, but leads one to think of possibilities – their mascot, a meerkat, peeking behind a sectional with a green cushion perhaps?

article courtesy of

— Lu Galasso


July 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment