Phil Bilbrough: OMG! Abstain


by Phil Bilbrough

It IS fantastic. Its a campaign that just keeps on giving – how fantastic is that? A campaign that will be remembered for all time.

I’ve written this blog 3 or 4 times over. Each time I complete it a new thing comes up. And did we ever see the whole campaign? Are we going to hear the whole story? Telecom claims that this campaign was leaked. That’s extra cool. Much cooler than Telecom will ever be.  A leak that adds spice to a spicy ad.

I was one of the few that thought that the Fitzy and the abstain campaign was great. Fitzy in the twilight zone. The pen-ultimate sacrifice is asked for. Black rubber rings are xtra weird, and I didn’t initially recognise the pink fist, but once I did the weirdness scale went through the roof.

How successful would this campaign have been? What more could a marketer wish for before his/her campaign actually goes live? All over the TV “news” programmes and sites, its just that these guys weren’t into it. TV3’s @JohnCampbell wasn’t into it.  Twitter people #abstainforthegame were unconvinced and outraged, yet there were a few…

“@MrMikeMcRoberts: So no sex during the rugby world cup Fitzy? and this from our country’s best known hooker #abstainforthegame”

..who made a joke about it. And that for me is what the campaign is about. Lighten the leaden air. Relax. You are all uptight. New Zealander’s are tight ass. Being uptight (or being relaxed) isn’t going to win us a world cup. There’s the irony of it.

I was surprised that Telecom ditched it – until I heard that it was leak – or was it? Maybe if we saw the whole thing, if there was more, more time to let people to run it around their brains for a while, a bit longer it might have come good.

This campaign had a nuance, an irony that appealed to me. Humorous yet still recognising that fans want to do everything that they can to help our All Blacks win the world cup. I think Fitzy got the joke. Uptight NZers could use a bit of humor in this nervous house pacing holding pattern pre-world cup kick-off time. But I don’t think that they think so.

Telecom has never really got going with the NZ public. I remember when they came into existence and immediately changed the colour of the phone booths from red to blue.  New Zealander’s liked the ads with cute animals and great cover music – but there hasn’t been much about Telecom that NZers has loved.

A TVC with an executive tele-conferencing from a beach house (which felt like an ad that  Teresa Gatting would have made) was bourgeoisie, and then a high profile Richard Hammond campaign didn’t make XT work any better.  When Vodafone turned up it really felt that we were being saved from a bullying insecure big brother, but then Vodafone went the Telecom way, nevermind.

This year’s World Cup has already had a few bad omens. An earthquake (no Lancaster Park), Adidas have turned into a multinational nasty which they always were but we previously didn’t care. Anyway this isn’t the time to make jokes – Rugby is serious shit.

So the lessens from this campaign: 1. Telecom probably shouldn’t make jokes close to the Rugby World Cup, in fact nobody should. 2. NZers don’t want to breath badly in case in case it affects the All Blacks chances. 3. “PR disaster” is on the lips of everyone…. we aren’t predisposed to look kindly at anything (until we win the cup).

My colleagues got the joke but didn’t think it funny. NZers take sex seriously. When did we become so staunch and uptight?  Probably around the time the French last knocked the All Blacks out of the cup.

Still like this campaign. Suppose I’ll just have to go back to bonking.


Phil Bilbrough is a freelance online advertising specialist who is blogging on the subject for Scoop at He can be contacted at

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