Telstra 'disappointed' with PR agency's campaign gaffe

Gillian Wolski
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

Telstra has spoken out following the release of a controversial Christmas campaign that offered customers ‘the option to drunk dial their exes’ for free.

The major telco announced the promotion on Wednesday via a press release with the subject line, “Drunk dial your ex for free this Christmas”, a message that was slammed by a dating expert as ‘tacky’ and potentially damaging.

A Telstra spokesperson, however, has attributed the message to the ‘poor judgement’ of their PR agency who sent out the press release, stating that it ‘was not in keeping with the intent of the campaign’.

Telstra offered Aussies the option to 'drunk dial their ex' for free this Christmas in a press release sent by their PR agency. Photo: Getty Images.

“In trying to appeal to a specific audience [Telstra’s PR agency] has used poor judgement and missed the mark with the subject of their pitch,” the spokesperson tells Yahoo Lifestyle in an exclusive chat.

“The intent of the campaign is about connecting Australians through the festive season with a specific focus on connecting the community’s most vulnerable,” they add.

“Social isolation at this time of year is a big issue and by doing something as simple as removing the financial barrier gives people the opportunity to potentially make a positive connection with a loved one or someone they have become estranged from.”

PR agency speaks out

In the release, the brand revealed it was ‘gifting’ all Australians free mobile calls from Telstra payphones around the country, in addition to Telstra Air Wi-Fi at selected access points from December 24 to January 1.

“Aussies now have the option to drunk dial their exes at no cost this festive season, using payphones across the country thanks to Telstra,” it read.

In a statement sent to Yahoo Lifestyle, the PR company admitted that the wording used in the release was not approved by Telstra.

“The previous angle that we sent was not in keeping with the intent of the campaign, and the copy was sent out without Telstra’s approval,” the statement read.

Telstra has since put the 'drunk dial an ex' messaging down to 'poor judgement'. Photo: Telstra.

Drunk dialling a ‘nightmare’

According to Renee Brown, matchmaker and founder of Corporate Cupid, drunk calling an ex-partner is ‘always a nightmare’.

“You go through the breakup period and you’re trying to stay cool and be the better person and then you have that moment where alcohol gets the better of you and if you’ve got the opportunity to let loose on your ex in a phone call then all hell breaks loose,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle.

Renee expressed concern that encouraging people to make contact with their former partners while intoxicated could be harmful.

“It’s all negative, there’s nothing positive that can come of [drunk dialling an ex],” she explained.

While Renee said that the ‘drunk calling of an ex’ message ‘tarnishes’ Telstra, she supported the idea of connecting people on a genuine level which, as it turns out, is the campaign aim.

‘Free Calls at Christmas’

The brand officially launched the ‘Free Calls at Christmas’ campaign in partnership with the Salvation Army in Melbourne on Wednesday.

“A simple phone call could make all the difference this Christmas and help reconnect Australians doing it tough with their loved ones or long-lost family or friends,” Major Brendan Nottle, The Salvation Army, said.

In 2018, over 120,000 calls were placed during the free call period, with time spent on the phone equivalent to over 300 days.

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