Morty 2.0

Off to a Good Start (SILVER)
Best Integrated Program (SILVER)

Client Credits: MTS (Manitoba Telecom Services)
Stan Kurtas; Vice President, Marketing
Kim Johnson; Director, Advertising and Marketing Communications
Rachel Ploegman; Senior Advertising Planner
Lia Crabbe; Senior Advertising Planner
Megan Brown; Advertising Planner
Gillian Dow; Advertising Planner
Sarah Coy; Advertising Planner
Julie Chaput; Marketing Associate

Agency Credits: Dare Vancouver
Jonathan Longworth; Vice President, Client Integration
Bryan Collins; Vice President, Creative Director
Rob Sweetman; Vice President, Creative Director
Josh Tebbutt; Vice President, Media Director
Catherine Piercy; Associate Planning Director
Tamara Bennett; Integration Director
Fiona McFaul; Integration Supervisor
Dana Harkness; Integration Manager
Mike Hasinoff; Director of Broadcast Production
Shannon Pickering; Planner
Cheryl Brusic; Senior Media Planner/Buyer
Debbie Lucas; Media Supervisor

Crossover Notes:
All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2013 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at

Crossover Note 2. Brand Truths.
Crossover Note 3. Core Equity versus Price & Promotion.
Crossover Note 14. Refreshing a continuing campaign.
Crossover Note 15. Baby with the Bathwater.
Crossover Note 16. When a campaign stumbles.
Crossover Note 21. Likeability.

To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):April 2011 - Dec 2011
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: March 31 2011
Base Period as a Benchmark: Calendar 2009 & 2010

a) Overall Assessment

The telecommunications industry is fast-moving and ever-changing. It is an industry greatly affected by new technology and innovation, changing regulations, competitive pressures, and wildly shifting consumer expectations and ideals. For Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS), the local home-grown telecom provider in Manitoba, they have managed to evolve and grow with the times, keeping themselves in business for over a century.

However, the last decade has been what some might say MTS’s best, and toughest years. There were 3 legs to this journey:

1)      In 1999, MTS launched a new brand strategy with a creative platform centered on Morty the talking bison. Manitoba quickly fell in love with the wit, humour, and friendliness of the Morty commercials. The Morty platform was an amazing advertising tool for MTS; brand recognition scores were at their highest ever, the company was surpassing yearly revenue objectives, and MTS became dominant in the Manitoba market holding the highest market share for all their main lines of business.  And, to add to it all, a bison outfit was the most popular Halloween costume that year.

2)      By 2008, significantly increased competition had moved into the Manitoba market. TELUS, Rogers and Shaw were making plays to gain market share in the province offering low prices, sexy products, and advanced technology. In addition to competitive pressures, technological advancements had caused the messaging to become much more complex, and the Morty platform had become creatively cumbersome and dated.

As a result, by 2009, Morty’s pastures had turned a bit yellow. The landscape had changed. And, this meant market share losses and revenue coming in below forecast across several of MTS’s main lines of business [Footnote #1]:

  • TV service
  • Internet service
  • Home Phone service  

It was agreed that the Morty platform was no longer serving the needs of MTS, and the decision was made that a new approach was needed. 

 3)      Over the last half of 2009 and 2010, Morty took a back-seat in the MTS advertising. The platform focused on using people in the ads so there could be direct interaction with the products in real-life scenarios, offering a fresh approach for the brand. However, brand linkage, brand efficiency, and ad recall scores were much lower than they had been when the bison platform was used. [Crossover Note 16] Market share and revenue were also not improving, and the competition was being perceived as leading in several key attributes [Footnote #2]:

  • Able to compete successfully in the future
  • Leaders in providing new, innovative telecommunications services
  • More popular

To address this a new platform was launched in 2011 that leveraged all past learning and has been an overwhelming success as the following case demonstrates.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

2011 OBJECTIVE #1:  Increase forecasted revenue budgets over 2010 forecasts, in an effort to increase sales and retain customers: 

 Wireless/Cellular:  2011 forecast 5.9% more than 2010 forecast [Footnote #3].

TV Service: 2011 forecast 2.4% more than 2010 forecast [Footnote #4].

Internet Service:  2011 forecast 8.4% more than 2010 forecast [Footnote #5].

Home Phone Service:  2011 forecast 7.9% decrease from 2010 forecast [Footnote #6].

  • The predicted decrease was a forecast based on a declining overall number of households having a home phone line, as many were converting to wireless devices only.

 2011 OBJECTIVE #2: Double the number of customers on the MTS MyBundle.

  • It had become clear that when one home service left to a competitor, the other home services generally went with it. If MTS could find a way to increase the number of customers that are bundling their products with MTS, this could help reduce churn and increase retention and revenue.   

 2011 OBJECTIVE #3:  Improve brand linkage, ad recall, and brand engagement/perception (ad likability) as measured by IPSOS Reid.

  • The original Morty platform had extremely high branding and likability scores for the advertising – in the top 5%, well above IPSOS norms. We needed to get this back.   

 2011 OBJECTIVE #4:  Improve perception that MTS is a technologically advanced company as measured by IPSOS Reid.

  • MTS needed to be seen as a company that could compete in the future, and could keep up with the innovation and technology of today’s world.

c) Annual Media Budget
Over $5 million

d) Geographic Area

Footnote #1: 2008-2011 MTS IPSOS Reid Ad Tracking Results. Slide 23.

Footnote #2: 2010 MTS IPSOS Reid Adgraph Tracking Results. Trimester 3, slide 26.

Footnote #3: 2008-2011 MTS IPSOS Reid Ad Tracking Results. Slide 50, Slide 61.

Footnote #4: 2008-2011 MTS IPSOS Reid Ad Tracking Results. Slide 44, Slide 61.

Footnote #5: 2008-2011 MTS IPSOS Reid Ad Tracking Results. Slide 45, Slide 61.

Footnote #6: 2008-2011 MTS IPSOS Reid Ad Tracking Results. Slide 49, Slide 61.

a) Analysis and Insight

We started by reminding ourselves who we were talking to. Manitobans are strong because they come together as a people. Their identity and pride is built on community and connectedness. This is reflected in their everyday lives in numerous ways; for example their license plates say ‘Friendly Manitoba’, and their parties are called ‘Socials’. Overall, Manitobans are extremely proud of their ‘Manitoban-ness’, and what makes them uniquely Manitoban.

Further research and market analysis showed us that Morty was still loved; when asked about the MTS advertising, the constant and almost immediate comment was “the bison ads” [Footnote 7]. It was found that although we’d had the non-Morty based ads in market for two years time, people still passionately remembered Morty. They fondly recalled several bison ads from years prior with little recollection of any of the newer advertising where Morty was not prominently featured [Footnote 8]. The new ad platform wasn’t standing out and being remembered. There was nothing about it that made it unique, relatable and specifically Manitoban, and so it didn’t represent the company any differently from the competition. [Crossover Note 2]

The talking bison platform had connected Manitobans to MTS, by bringing Manitoban values to life in a relatable, relevant and entertaining way for the people of the province. Morty was seen as an ‘everyday Joe’ of the prairies, and he had a persona that people could relate to. As a result, MTS had been regarded as a Manitoban company that people connected with, because there was a unique, personal and thus emotional element to the advertising that made it relevant to them. [Crossover Note 3] 

We realized we’d lost the element that had connected MTS to the people; we’d gone full circle, and the bison was staring us in the face. We discovered that the foundation that connected him to Manitobans was still there; they still loved Morty. So, the solution was simple: we needed to evolve Morty and bring him back into Manitoban’s lives.  In essence, Morty hadn’t needed to be cast aside; he simply needed a face lift. [Crossover Note 14] 

b) Communication Strategy

The birth of Morty 2.0: Morty needed to be reborn as an evolved Morty, ready to take on the challenges of today’s world. Morty now had to appeal to a wide audience that wasn’t talking over water coolers anymore. They were now on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and email. And he wasn’t promoting simple products and features such as call display or voicemail, instead he had to deliver messaging about the benefits of complex multi-dimensional technology. He had to break through the immense clutter of advertising messages and set MTS apart from the multitude of large, national telco’s with their large, national budgets.

But most importantly Morty had to reinvigorate the emotional connection that Manitobans had built with him, and consequently with MTS, over a decade of being in their living rooms. Morty needed to be brought to life across multiple platforms, once again connecting Manitobans to MTS and its products in an entertaining, engaging, and sincere manner, giving a competitive edge over the competition’s not-so-personal and relatable voice. [Crossover Note 21]

Once re-established, Morty 2.0 needed to be leveraged in a multi-disciplined approach as the hero of all communications. Regardless of the messaging or media choices, all communications needed to be immediately identifiable as MTS, in an effort to re-build and maintain equity and amplification in our voice.

Footnote 7: MTS Research Focus Groups: Harpsinc. Dec 2010, Winnipeg MB.

Footnote 8: MTS Research Focus Groups: Harpsinc. Dec 2010, Winnipeg MB.

a) Media Used

  • Television
  • Print Ads – newspaper and magazine
  • Cinema
  • OOH – Billboards and Transit Shelter Ads
  • Grocery Ad Bars
  • Doorhangers
  • Flyers (FSIs)
  • Online tactics, including pre-roll, banners, microsites, mobile ads etc
  • Launch Party/Press conference

b) Creative Discussion

We started with knowing there was an opportunity for the public to immediately re-connect with Morty, but we also knew that the original talking bison platform had grown tired and old. So, we knew that whatever we did had to be based on reflecting the attitudes of the people of Manitoba, and had to be done in a fresh way that would stand out against the competing advertising. As a result, we created a fun, fresh, and unique animated world for Morty and his friends on the plains of Manitoba using the native animals and landscapes.  They’re a friendly, funny group led by Morty the bison, a social, unflappable character with a dry sense of humour, which is exactly how Manitobans see themselves.  But at the core, the advertising focuses on being part of a community and has a feeling of connectedness – the uniquely Manitoban insight.  

The launch of Morty 2.0 started with a reminder of the old Morty, and told the story of how he’d evolved into the new and improved. As a result, the introductory TV commercial that brought him to life in his animated world for the first time, and back into the living rooms of Manitoban households, was an ad that showed the story of how he’d worked hard to gain new strength and energy. This tied very well with the launch of a new MTS product, their HSPA+ 4G Network (high speed packet access). So, with the launch of the new network came the launch of the new animated Morty platform.

This new commercial debuted at a launch party held at the MTS head-office on March 31st, 2011 where Press and MTS employees gathered to celebrate the launch of the new network, the new Morty (which they weren’t expecting), and a performance by Maria Aragon, a local Winnipeg 11-year old up-and-coming vocal artist. MTS added a nice touch and had Morty cookies made for the event.  

 In addition, several other tactics ran for the launch campaign to help support it:

  • Print Advertorial
  • Microsite
    • This site told the story of how Morty evolved from “then to now” – The site housed a series of videos that started with the original Morty platform, and slowly showed how he had “gone on vacation”, and was now back in his new and improved form.
    • Print
    • 30 second radio
    • OOH Billboards
    • Rinkboards in ice arenas
    • Online banner ads
    • Online pre-roll
    • In-game ads (Playstation)
    • Mobile ads and a landing page
    • In-store posters and window banners

Since the launch, there have been several advertising campaigns that have run over the past year and 4 months. This includes nine more TV commercials with supporting mass campaigns; approximately twelve standard advertising campaigns that did not include a TV commercial; and various direct mail and online efforts, as well as a few sponsorships and promotions - ie: win free movie passes.

c) Media Discussion

We use a variety of tactics within our advertising, but there are a few staple tactics that are used frequently for different purposes:

  • TV – Leads the platform and campaigns, bringing Morty and his world to life:
    • 52 week market presence supports multiple creative executions, and establishes the brand platform.
    • Recognizing diverse and changing media habits, TV is used online via pre-roll and cinema as well, delivering a larger than life experience with the brand.
  • Print – continues the highly visual platform with real estate for product detail:
    • A variety of placements and ad sizes serve to address our needs: Gatefold Cover Wraps launch new products; low-cost banner ads achieve continuous market presence.
  • Online – parody between the Morty world and product click-through:
    •  Rich media executions allow Morty to come to life, and the consumer a chance to interact with his world.
  • OOH – format lends itself to allowing us to highlight the uniquely Manitoban feature of this company with landscapes and visuals of Morty world:
    • Helps achieve reach into smaller rural markets and reinforce branding.
  • Community level sponsorships and media executions– help ensure platform is communicated across the province, while reinforcing Manitoban-ness of the brand:
    • MJHL / Rec Media/Brandon Wheat Kings - In Arena Sponsorships
    • Winnipeg Jets Sponsorship  (TSN Jets TV and Sports 1290 Radio)
    • Grocery Ad Bars
    • Community Centre Decals
    • Winners - Change Room Decals
  • Unique media executions – create a level of surprise and interest while communicating product benefits:
    • Print - Hoof prints editorial in the newspaper;
    • Boston Pizza Coasters–gave Morty a place at the table during family meal time or date night;
    • Winner Decals - MTS was first advertiser to be in Winners change room’s in Manitoba, and was an unique environment to capture consumer’s attention;
    • Q4 Wireless Voken –added some engaging animation to what would otherwise be a static image;
    • Grocery Ad Bars - used on checkout conveyor belts in grocery stores, allowing a savings message in a relevant environment. MTS was first advertiser to negotiate placement in many rural grocery stores.

Note - examples of some of the creative listed in the above are attached to the case submission.

a) Sales/Share Results

2011 OBJECTIVE #1:  Increase forecasted revenue budgets over 2010 forecasts, in an effort to increase sales and retain customers: 

Surpassed all revenue forecasts for each line of business: 


Note: Home Phone Service:

  • Did not see a revenue increase from 2010, due to overall decrease of home phone lines across the province, yet still surpassed revenue forecasted.

Overall, MTS’s revenue for 2011 came in a full 3% above forecast for the year, equivalent to ten’s of millions of dollars for the company [Footnote #9]. That’s a massive achievement in such a competitive market where MTS had been coming in below forecast for the few years prior to Morty’s reintroduction.

 2011 OBJECTIVE #2:  Double the number of customers on the MTS MyBundle.

 Surpassed aggressive objectives for calendar 2011, with a 138% increase in MTS MyBundle customers [Footnote #10].


2011 OBJECTIVE #3:  Improve brand linkage, ad recall, and brand engagement/perception (ad likability) as measured by IPSOS Reid.

All of these areas have significantly improved:

  • Brand linkage and recall is exceptional and back in the .95 percentile, well above IPSOS norms, for all age groups, both male and female, in Winnipeg and rural communities [Footnote #11].
  • Research has also shown that testing results over the course of the new platform for several TV commercials have significantly improved perceptions about MTS in the following categories, again, significantly higher than IPSOS norms (Footnote #12):
    • Offer all the products and services that you need
    • Provides the best overall value for money that you spend
    • Offer competitive prices
    • Has the best advertising
    • Is becoming more popular these days
    • Continues to strive to earn or keep my business
    • Have products and services that work well together
    • Focuses on community and family values

2011 OBJECTIVE #4:  Improve perception that MTS is a technologically advanced company as measured by IPSOS Reid.

By Q3 2011, testing results for several TV commercials showed that MTS was seen as a company that would compete successfully in the future, and was a ‘leader in providing new, innovative telecommunications service’, according to IPSOS research results at a 90% percentile rating [Footnote #13]. 

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

Footnote #9: 2008-2011 MTS IPSOS Reid Ad Tracking Results. Slide 61.

Footnote #10: 2008-2011 MTS IPSOS Reid Ad Tracking Results. Slide 63.

Footnote #11: 2011 MTS IPSOS Reid Adgraph Tracking Results. Trimester 3, slide 14,19 & 24.

Footnote #12:

2011 MTS IPSOS Reid Adgraph Tracking Results. Trimester 3, slide 17, & 27.

2011 MTS IPSOS Reid Adgraph Tracking Results. Trimester 2, slide 22.

Footnote #13: 2011 MTS IPSOS Reid Adgraph Tracking Results. Trimester 3, slide 17 & 49.

a) General Discussion

Based on the business results for calendar 2011, MTS saw significant increases in company revenue and market share when compared to the years where the original Morty was either on the decline or was not used. The Morty 2.0 brand platform has been a significant factor in this change. He has re-captured the Manitoba market’s attention and restored the connection with MTS.

In addition to the IPSOS results noted in the section prior where all revenue forecasts were met or exceeded, and the perception of MTS substantially changed for the positive under several categories including “the best advertising”, it is also evident that brand engagement has positively increased:

  • MTS has been contacted by the public to find out details about Morty and his friends. I.e.: what the name of the new beaver character is; what type of bird was featured in the latest MTS TV ad.
  • One of the TV ads that aired in Nov/Dec 2011 had “Petey”, one of Morty’s friends, flying through the air. MTS received enough concern from the public about Petey’s landing that we had to create a short clip that ran online to show him landing safely.
  • Although this particular situation didn’t help increase sales or MTS’s bottom line, we wanted to share an example of consumer engagement that touched our hearts. MTS was contacted by a woman who’s 1 ½ year-old son had a stroke at birth, and has trouble with his speech. Every time he sees the Morty characters, he points at them and tries to speak. She requested some posters which we made especially for her son and she has now put them up in his bedroom and around the house to encourage his speech. A truly heartfelt example of how Morty and his group of friends are connecting with people, even if they aren’t old enough to buy our products yet.


b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

Over the years discussed – 2008-2011:

  • Spending Levels remained consistent – approx $11-$13.5 million/year in advertising efforts.



  • Pricing stayed consistent with the competition.

  • Distribution Changes:

  • Distribution has remained consistent across Manitoba only.

  • Unusual Promotional Activity:

  • MTS operates on a value-based pricing strategy, so there was no major promotional activity in comparison with the competition.

  • Other Potential Causes:

  • There have been product improvements, as is the nature of the business, but most are consistent with the competition.