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Shaw launches advertising blitz ‘to give the brand a voice’

Shaw Communications corporate headquarters in Calgary: During its most recent quarter, Shaw lost 16,474 basic cable subscribers.


Shaw Communications Inc. is launching a massive corporate rebranding, in the largest advertising investment in the company's 40-year history.

The new campaign, which kicks off Monday and centres around a group of cutesie robot characters, represents the biggest move by new chief marketing officer Jim Little since he moved to the company from his post at Royal Bank of Canada in March. It also comes at a time of intense competition for Shaw: competitor Telus Corp. launched its Optik TV and Internet product in mid-2010. Since then, it has been poaching Shaw's customers in British Columbia and Alberta through a service-bundle strategy that includes discounts for taking multiple products, including wireless – a service that is missing from Shaw's lineup.

Last year, Shaw decided to abandon a $1-billion plan to enter the competitive wireless business after spending $189.5-million on wireless licences in 2008. Instead, it has opted to pursue a less costly WiFi strategy which it continues to roll out.

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During its most recent quarter, Shaw lost 16,474 basic cable subscribers. It also added fewer Internet customers during the fourth-quarter of 2012 than it did in the same year-ago period. The brand takes on more importance in a competitive environment, Mr. Little said in an interview Thursday. Analysts expect the competitive dynamic between Shaw and Telus to continue in the key western Canadian market over the near term. "We want to be fighting hard, fighting for share," he said. "We're excited that this will give us momentum and have the market give us a second look."

The new campaign emphasizes the speed of Shaw's cable network, which Mr. Little views as a main selling point for the service. Shaw will begin airing heavy rotation TV ads in Western markets, as well as buying ads in print, radio, online, billboards, transit, and doing street events and other promotions. Six or seven television spots will launch in the next few months, the heaviest period, but Shaw will keep marketing heavily following the launch as well. Over time, Mr. Little said, the company is hoping that the characters become familiar enough that the advertising messages will be more instantly recognizable and it will not have to spend as much to keep its brand top of mind.

The advertising work was done by Vancouver-based agency Rethink. On Thursday, Shaw announced Rethink is now the company's "agency of record," responsible for most of the brand's advertising. Rethink was given a month to pitch the business, and won the account in July. "We wanted to do something that took the warmth of Telus and notched it up a little, to give the brand a voice," said Chris Staples, a founding partner at Rethink.

It has also redesigned its corporate logo for the first time in 14 years. Shaw did not intend to redesign the logo at first but once the new "bot world" was created, the old logo did not fit, Mr. Little said. The new lettering is softer and more round, and intended to appear more accessible.

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