Dear Bell Canada: Your Rebrand is a DisastER

September
1
2008

Bell Canada

1000, de La Gauchetière Ouest, Bureau 3700
Montréal (Québec) H3B 4Y7

August 31st, 2008

Dearest Bell Canada,

We used to be friends once, you and I. You provided my home and cell phone services, a little part of every contact with those closest to me. I can’t say I looked forward to your bills, but I paid them with a grudging respect built on years of dependable service and neat facts like having the world’s largest local dialing area, or powering phones over the phone lines so they would work in emergencies and keep us safe. I felt like you cared back then Bell!

But then your customer service fell apart and I ended up yelling at your useless agents every month over my incorrect bill. And you started trying to charge me for little things which used to be free, leaving me feeling gouged and dirty like the harsh morning light after a dark night of drunken frenzy. And so I left you, coldly, brutally, leaping into the arms of the nearest Roger who would have me. Sure, he regularly mistreats me and pulls the same tricks you used to (and a whole bunch you only fantasize about in your wildest dreams), but at least I’d had my say and held my ground.

And so I watched from afar while you got into new markets like satellite TV. I played with your ExpressVu service a little behind your back — kinda like checking out your ex’s Facebook page — but I honestly wasn’t impressed. I hear it got better, but the first generation was like using a menu drawn by a cranky Commodore 64 who’d been hitting the scooby snacks. No thanks! I kept my distance.

And then, oh Bell. And then. The beavers. Frank and Gordon? Seriously? I smugly pretended like we’d never dated and I barely even knew the mess you’d become. But you kept at them and they kept appearing in inane ad after inane ad. I like beavers and all (it might even have been part of my citizenship pledge way back when I was a wee little immigrant to the great nation we share), but honestly. What could be worse than an endless ad campaign involving talking beavers?

Well, I have to say congratulations. I think you might actually have found it. I say this from the tiny little tender region of my heart which might still have some feelings for you: your new ad campaign is a disaster. My completely informal survey of pretty much everyone I know has confirmed that it’s more universally despised than poor ‘old Frank and Gordon, who at least had some fans out there. I bet you thought you were being pretty clever when you launched with a big teaser campaign, just like you did with those gift wrapped Christmas presents. Everywhere I went I saw these big, white ads with the blue shape and at least one “er”:

Bell teaser campaign (CC license by Sweet One: http://flickr.com/photos/sweetone/2734661310/)

Bell teaser campaign (CC license by Sweet One: http://flickr.com/photos/sweetone/2734661310/)

What could it be?, I thought. Maybe something to do with the Olympics? Citius, altius, fortius and whatnot. Maybe Royal Bank? They’ve got lots of cash to pay for giant nonsensical teaser campaigns and a penchant for blue on white.

Sadly, no. Somehow, despite hiring shiny new agency Zulu Alpha Kilo who have nothing better to do than dream up brilliant campaigns (like, say, build a real website for themselves), and pairing them with industry heavyweights like Leo Burnett, lg2, and Cossette, you managed to launch an entire campaign built around the sound people make when they’re confused and dumbfounded (which, in the end, is a pretty apt summary of the reaction people have).

Bell Canada's new ad campaign

Bell Canada's new ad campaign

There’s a part of me that I’m not so proud of. It’s like a vestigial base animal instinct left over from the days of hunting and killing our meals in cold blood. It’s the part that violently retches and tears wings of kitty cat angels whenever someone says “webinar” or “staycation” or other Frankenwords meant to capture the dynamic synergies of our sleek, modern lives. Suffice it to say that there won’t be many flying feline heavenly messengers now that you’re referring to the abstracted blue letterforms in your ads as bellements (which were, unfortunately, the only part of the campaign I liked until I heard that little detail and had to go gag in the corner). Also, Pentagram’s 2006 rebrand of Saks Fifth Avenue called and would like their graphical device back.

Which brings us, I wearily suppose, to your new logo.

Bells new logo

Bell's new logo

I would have thought, with all the money you spent on this new campaign, and will now spend changing every building, truck, and letterhead throughout your massive organization, that you might have set aside a budget for a typesetter. I realize it’s probably the stodgy old typographer in me, but the bizarre kerning in your new identity has me grasping for a copy of The Elements of Typographic Style. The tight spacing and suffocated e are completely the opposite of what I would have wanted for a brand that is supposed to make me think of a forward thinking company who can solve all of my current and future communication quandries.

So. I’m going to keep on keeping on with my distance keeping. You and me are done Bell. Today just got better, or so your new ads tell me. Today is a new smoothie says Starbucks, and they beat you to it. I’m going to go have a tasty Banana Chocolate Vivanno while you ponder that one. Perhaps a relevant piece of advice from my friend Mr. Shaver: dig up.

Yours truly,

Jay Goldman

5 comments
Simon Duffy
Simon Duffy

The tag line and strategy of 'Today just got better' was the idea of an English man named Simon Duffy who was hired by Cossette from Saatchi & Saatchi after the agency had failed to produce a solution to Bell's problem.

Simon Duffy left Cosstte early in 2008 after creating the new branding and strategy for Bell. He has since reinvented numerous global brands under the name of Simon Duffy Inc. He also has a successful branding and design company named Pirate Island, which has produced work for a number of global brands, including Pepsico global.

jaygoldman
jaygoldman

Zac — Not at all! I think it's one of the worst campaigns I've seen in recent memory. Though maybe they should have :)

Zac
Zac

So... were you hired to do viral marketing for bell or zulu alpha kilo then?

z.

jaygoldman
jaygoldman

Does Simon Duffy always write in the third person when he's commenting on blog posts about himself? :)