A Brand identity crisis?

48 when it had balls


My last post paid homage to an irreverent approach to advertising. The brand in question was of course the phone network; 48.  Many were confused and when they weren’t confused they were offended. Was this a joke? Was the possibility of sex and glamour actually being used to sell a phone network? Usually when an age limit accompanies anything to do with sex, alcohol and debauchery, it’s designed to keep the young out, not lure them in.  It worked. The brand emerged from nowhere and everyone knew what they were about, the imagery and language used within their ads was distinctive and strong.

Sorry, what?

The ASAI was inevitably inundated with complaints. The radio ads used sordid language to describe the antics of the typical 48 user. The scantily clad models in the outdoor advertising were seen as unnecessary and inappropriate on the grounds that there was absolutely no link between boobs and phone credit. This reaction on behalf of the public was to be expected. What was not expected was the reaction given on 48’s behalf. They completely disposed of their original brand image. They didn’t gradually evolve with time or gently water down the aspects that got them in the most trouble, no they walked away and returned unrecognisable.

For me, I can’t imagine this new ad as being part of a campaign. There is absolutely no brand message apparent in this ad. Admittedly  I am not part of the target market but I should still understand what they are trying to communicate here. The visuals are bright and eye catching but they create no image. Had the brand debuted with this ad I honestly don’t think the campaign or the network offer would have been a success. On the other hand, perhaps this was the intention all along; emerge on the market with the kind of initial impact a brand could not sustain. Maybe the complaints were anticipated and the original campaign message was designed to be short lived and to make the kind of impact needed to gather a mass following. Even considering these possibilities,  I still can’t seem to get to grips with what the new campaign is trying to tell customers. It’s obviously aimed at young people, given the light ‘tone’ and trendy Asian pop culture imagery but apart from that it feels as though there’s very little else going on.

Again, maybe i’m judging a campaign before it has had the chance to develop but with the old campaign, the Irish public was instantly enthralled. Yet the new ad has received a positive response on Youtube with one member asking when Ireland got so cool, this comment then received over 80 thumbs up in agreement.

When did Ireland get so cool?


Like the target market that the brand is aimed at, the 48 brand is reinventing it’s image like a fickle teenager. In one respect this is a positive thing, a brand image should not remain stagnant but the drastic realignment of the brand image seemed panicked and disconnected from the original values that the brand had developed. Only time will tell how this campaign will be received.



3 thoughts on “A Brand identity crisis?

  1. Hi Niamh

    I normally don’t respond to stuff about 48, but given you’ve thought about this a lot and given it a balanced review, I felt obliged:)

    The 2nd ad was always going to be very different to the launch one. This 2nd ad was planned and discussed prior to launch of first ad – and was not a reaction to how the first ad performed. In fact we were very happy with first ad and the reaction.

    You are correct that the 2nd ad would not have created the same impact, and thus would never have been a launch ad – launch ad had a bigger job to do. It had to create intrigue, explain the brand and deliver its offer message.

    But the brand hasn’t changed or moved position: So 48 is for 18-22ry olds. The first ad says “things happen when you turn 18” and the second focuses on the 22 part “serious can wait till 22”. Both messages re-enforce that these are best 48 months of our lives.

    48 is not about sex / relationships. Nor is it about dancing to Jpop music. They are just two stories, features that we’ve started with. It would be boring and tired to churn out the same style advertising every time. It is more fun (in my view) to leave people unsure if 48 are serious or not, and disarm them with something different. Instead we prefer to do stuff 48 finds interesting. We liked the first story, while not realistic in treatment, is true on other levels and wanted it to feel more like a US tv show trailer. And we liked the Japanese look and feel and wanted to do something on that theme.

    Hope this helps. Don’t expect the next ad to look much like like these past two ads either, but it will consistently re-enforce why the brand exists (our positioning): to celebrate these 48 months between 18 and 22.


    • Hi Paul,

      Thanks for taking the time to reply. It originally seemed to me that the style of the second ad may have been designed in response to the trouble 48 appeared to get in for the first ad, not that it was all part of creating a bigger picture. I agree that the same style of advertising would get repetitive, even if you continued down the first route. Are people responding well to the second ad?
      I look forward to seeing your third one.


  2. hi Niamh,

    Nice post(s). I left a longish comment articulating the brand strategy, but think I managed to mess it up while clicking ‘post comment’. Sorry.

    But the short version of my comment was that: the 2nd ad was in the works even before we launched with the first campaign. The brand hasn’t changed position – people are just seeing a different side to it. The brand celebrates those 48 months between 18 and 22. The first TV focused in on the 18 part “things happen when you turn 18” while the 2nd TV ad is just a celebration of the fact that people can enjoy these 48 months and ‘serious can wait till 22’.

    We were very happy the response of the first campaign and the 2nd ad was not a reaction to the reaction. We just like to communicate stuff that we find interesting, in a way we find interesting. The next campaign is being planned and you’ll see it is different again to the first two – but our positioning won’t change. The 48 brand exists to remind and celebrate these 48 months.

    That aside. I liked your post and felt obliged to give you the inside scoop.


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