Giffgaff: Online ads don’t make a brand famous

TV advertising and sponsorship has helped build it into the “ballsy brand it is today”.

Giffgaff believes TV advertising has been key to building its brand awareness but admits it still has a “big fuck-off mountain” to climb to compete with its big spending rivals.

In an unsurprising nod to the power of TV’s effectiveness at the inaugural Big TV Fest on Thursday (8th February) – hosted by ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Thinkbox – Giffgaff’s head of advertising said she was naive to think the mobile operator could achieve the brand awareness it has now through online platforms alone.

Speaking to a specially assembled group of media of planners and marketers in a heated teepee deep in Blackwood Forest, Abi Pearl explained how TV advertising and sponsorship helped build the Telefonica-owned mobile network into the “ballsy brand it is today”.

“Back then we thought we didn’t need TV and that we could just make content that would go viral and make us famous,” Pearl said. “That didn’t happen at all. We were wrong.”

Giffgaff is currently one of 59 mobile networks available in the UK in a market that is constantly growing. And faced with competition from the big players with budgets that allow them to “outspend [giffgaff] by a country mile”, Pearl said gaining cut-through on TV is an ongoing challenge.

“We’ve got a big mountain to climb and it’s a big fuck-off mountain,” she explained.

“It’s like wanting to be Beyoncé but with the budget of a busker. We have to be blind to the fact we don’t have the money. Whether you’re spending £1 or £10m, it’s still money and you’ve got to think of the best way to do it.”

Pearl admitted GiffGaff used to be “anti-TV”, but said the majority of its media spend now goes on TV, online video or outdoors – “especially buses” – rather than on “hard to justify” platforms that lack sufficient metrics.

“It it’s very hard to justify the cost of Snapchat versus the measurement you get back,” she added. “So you might reach millions of people but it’s one day and it’s just cost you £110,000, which could be a spot on Gogglebox on Friday night.”

While Giffgaff’s marketing strategy does include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, Pearl echoes the voices of many in the media industry and said there needs to be better measurement systems in place.

“Things like Snapchat ads for us give us just as good reach and are far more cost effective, but I could do with some measurement on something I just spent £15,000 on,” she concluded.

“It’s so hard to quantify why you should or shouldn’t do something without seeing it on your tracker all the time.”

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