Hanging up on Telecom

Those aren’t my words, they’re Simon Moutter’s as they officially relaunched Telecom’s Auckland HQ as ‘Spark City’.

Like most Kiwi’s over 35 I’ve watched the huge changes that have occurred since the 4th (Lange) Labour Government started the ball rolling by ‘corporatising’ the old Post Office.

I was a 20 something commerce student in Dunedin and it was like living through a revolution, all these moribund institutions were turned inside out overnight. In 1988 I found myself working for Telecom’s sibling NZ Post.

At that point in time, the Telecom ‘C’ suite lived in Post HQ and the tension in the air was palpable, I soon lamented to my boss that we should’ve got Telecom to leave us a copy of the billing system because after they left, Post no longer knew its customers by name.

Telecom then grew up rapidly, started dating rich boys for their money and my mates that worked there started using long words like ‘nomenclature’ but pronounced it ‘Gnomen Klature’ like their new overlords.

As I taught the NZDMA’s certificate course in Wellington over the late 80’s & early 90’s I had many bright young ‘bellheads’ pass through my classes. In truth I was a bit jealous of the glamorous world they inhabited.

When I was making a direct response TVC for the Reserve Bank in 1991 selling Rugby World Cup commemorative coins I used Telecom Mobile’s call centre as my in-bound telemarketers. When we had a scheduling issue with TVNZ I saw the power of Telecom muscles being flexed first hand.

We went on to do advertising and marketing work around the fringes of Telecom, and we had a lot of fun. I have great memories of working with Ross Baker and his mobile team  during the marketing wars with BellSouth, it was mobile that lead to our (& possibly NZs) first use of a URL in a print ad in I think 1993.

My second on-line client was ‘Netway’ and I did my first video conference with them in 1992, I was introduced to the mobile internet then as well using my ‘Mobile Business Solutions’ office in a briefcase with an analogue Motorola cell phone and a device called a cellular modem.

Over the years we drifted apart as friends and acquaintances do, I got involved in the ‘other’ side with people like CityLink, the pacific.net and ultimately TUANZ. At the Project PROBE launch in Nelson Ernie Newman called Telecom ‘nothing more than a privatised IRD’ and he lamented the fact that NZ was unique in having an essentially non productive utility as its most valuable company!

So I was in the trenches and smelly tee-shirts fighting for change over the last decade and look at where we’ve got to. We now have a rational and competitive market structure that is attracting investment and delivering dramatically better services at lower costs to most New Zealanders, we still have some issues to sort out but on balance things are vastly improved.

I have been impressed with how post-separation Telecom has taken logical steps as an RSP, they have the challenge of being both defensive and an innovator. They are focussed on success and they face some big competition from overseas, so I personally wish them well.

As Simon said tonight its time to hang up on Telecom and log in to Spark.



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