I’ve started blogging quite a bit on behalf the agency so there will be a little cross-pollination of writing between here and the WCRS&Co site from now on – in reality this will probably only be the odd post now and again since our clients are unlikely to want to sample the latest Four Tet LP or read a review of some gig in Elephant and Castle. More fool them.

Anyway, below is a piece I wrote about giffgaff – one of my pet subjects to drone on about. Enjoy.

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giffgaff: silly name, great idea. This is a venture I’ve been banging on about to anyone who’ll listen (and even those that won’t) for some time now and, despite being nearly 2 years old, its fundamental principles and strategy remain as relevant as ever – that’s not bad for start-up in the notoriously fickle web-based communications sector.

giffgaff is a mobile network powered by consumers, it piggy-backs onto O2’s signal but delivers value in spades by doing away with fixed contracts, shop floors, marketing and call centres. As a result of this giffgaff users can load up low-cost packages onto their SIMs and receive deals equivalent to (or better) than those they would receive from the big network monthly contracts but without having to sign their life away for 18 or 24 months. Get the full skinny here.

The fact that the mobile technology market is moving so fast jars with the increased length of monthly contracts; big networks seem to content to simply extend the length of contracts to support new developments in the smartphone market rather than look at an alternative business model altogether.

Something has to give and when it does giffgaffers will be the first to say ‘I told you so’. The network is designed to promote social interaction and reward it. If you have a problem with your phone or the network some smart-arse on the giffgaff forum will be on hand to solve it (the model is similar to Yahoo! Answers) and then be rewarded with free minutes by the community for doing so. When Apple’s iPhone 4 launched the community even shared a limited number of micro-SIM cutters through the post so members could accurately create the required SIM at home.

It’s a great example of a splinter brand specifically designed around social media and it would be great to see Telefonica (O2’s parent company) taking some of the lessons learned here into its larger ventures.

There are many pot-holes to avoid for brands venturing into the social space but my top tip would be not to bolt a social campaign onto an existing business model since, 9 times out of 10, that model won’t fit neatly with social strategies.

A brand like giffgaff rightly believes in advocates not advertising, an approach that has already paid dividends and one that represents a refreshing wake-up call for the communications industry.

NB. I cannot really claim credit for the ‘advocates not advertising’ nugget – it’s far too witty and succinct for me. It was the central proposition of the first agency I interned at, SHOP (formerly CDD), which is sadly no longer.

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Finally, a little bit of music to finish with. Continuing on with electronica  from the previous Four Tet post, I thought I’d share a bit about Nouveaunoise. This Irish duo make a gorgeous racket from a combination of samples and, crucially, live instruments. The results are fantastic, particularly on their debut LP which is a steal at €4 from the band’s Bandcamp site.

Thanks to the ever-reliable Bobby at The Fox Is Black for putting me onto these guys – you can watch them be reluctantly  interviewed by the worst presenters in Ireland here or simply sit back and listen to ‘Cinnate’ above.