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Vodafone Phoneline – Google Assistant





Positive Provocation

We challenged Vodafone to show the life-changing power of smartphones by turning Google Assistant into a primetime DJ! It may not be an interactive or visual channel, but radio was the perfect choice to convert an audience who weren’t internet-savvy.

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Of the 85% of the Indian urban population who own a mobile phone, 56% own a feature-phone. In the fourth quarter of 2017, the feature-phone market grew by 55%,  while smartphones grew only 12%. This striking statistic tells us that the next wave of mobile phone growth in India is coming from consumers in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities who are just happy to get hold of cheaper devices.

Our challenge was to capture this growing market and drive smartphone adoption by showing non-internet users what a difference connectivity could make to their daily lives.

We went all-out to demonstrate the possibilities of this technology. We teamed up with Google to pilot an AI-powered voice assistant called Vodafone Phoneline with Google Assistant, bringing the power of the internet to feature-phone customers. This is a first-of-its-kind service and is free for Vodafone customers.

For the pilot, we chose Lucknow and Kanpur as test markets, as places with the highest number of feature-phone subscribers in India – most people here use phone calls to get information, rather than online data.

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As our target audience were in the smaller cities, they were more inclined to use regional languages, which can make typing on a small screen difficult and hard work. This gave us a key insight, that voice is a much easier way for this group to interact compared to typing.

Vodafone Phoneline with Google Assistant provided voice search via a toll-free number that anyone could call and ask questions such as weather updates, facts, distance to locations, sports scores and so on. Our task was two-fold:

  1. To drive awareness of the toll-free number in the priming stage
  2. To demonstrate the power of voice search in the active stage to create positive word of mouth post-purchase

As a totally new service, we needed to demonstrate the product so people could see clearly what it could do for them, and inspire them to use it.

The big challenge was how to demonstrate the technology to a non-tech, mass audience. Our two strongest audio-visual mediums –TV and digital – could not be used. TV is a mass medium, so targeting our pilot markets would lead to spillover and wastage. Digital was no good because our audience didn’t have the internet on their phones.

That left radio as the only voice medium which could work. It has the advantage of good reach with precise targeting and our research showed it had very low avoidance in small cities.


27% more people upgraded to smartphones than average during the campaign, a fantastic 8.3% of feature-phone users upgrading in just two months.

160,000 customers called the free service during the campaign period – 67% of whom were feature-phone users – and 550,000 calls were received over three months. The average call duration was an impressive three minutes. We achieved a 13% penetration of the target base in the first three months.

Customer satisfaction hit a high – 82% of customers said they would recommend the service to others; 73% had already recommended it.


increase in upgrades
calls received over 3 months
would recommend the service

The team's work has been exemplary on the campaign, from implementing the plan to working on impact and innovations or suggesting new media. Great work team – keep it going!

Rohan Ekbote – Assistant General Marketing Manager, Vodafone Idea Ltd

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