Cannes Lions



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A third of subscribers in South Africa don’t want a digital only relationship with their telecom provider; that’s 14 million people who won’t run their lives via their cellphone. But with the pandemic forcing more than half its retail stores to close, Cell C was cut off from a major proportion of its customer base.

This was a critical challenge for South Africa’s fourth-largest telecom provider whose direct in-store sales accounted for 24% of monthly revenues. With so many stores closed, many digitally averse consumers had nowhere to go to manage their accounts, purchase data or sign up for new deals.

That left Cell C on the precipice in one of the world’s most competitive mobile markets, where penetration sits at 168% and many consumers have multiple devices.

We had to find a new way to interact face-to-face. We set out to build a new retail network for Cell C.


Taking Cell C into salons would allow our target audience of working and middle-class consumers to discover more and manage their accounts in a 100% share of voice environment.

And because getting certain styles, such as braids and weaves, can take up to eight hours there would be plenty of time to get into the small print of Cell C’s great deals and resolve any problems.

We would weave Cell C into the hair salon experience across South Africa. By creating a first-to-market takeover, we introduced Cell C branding into local salons in areas where its store closures had disadvantaged digitally averse consumers.

Cell C would benefit from a presence in a unique location as well as recommendation in a high dwell-time environment. The trusted voices of trained stylists would act as a powerful recommendation for the brand.

We would rebuild Cell C’s physical presence through a network of salons.


We transformed 500 salons across the nation into a new network of Cell C advisors. Stylists were trained by regional sales teams who would visit each store every week to monitor progress and sales, and provide updates on new products.

Each salon was redecorated and kitted out with crisp Cell C branding, complete with pamphlets, table talkers and TV screens, window and mirror decals and pull-out banners, which showcased all the latest deals and products.

We also improved the lot of 20 informal stylists/vendors, replacing dilapidated tarps with smart Cell C branded portable gazebos.

Most salon transactions would be sales of data and airtime for existing Cell C customers, but regular visits by Cell C reps would also create opportunities for new customers to switch.

We backed up our salon message with interviews on South African TV’s biggest morning show, Expresso, and even featured salons in TV ads.


We turned a crisis into an opportunity, creating tens of thousands of new touchpoints to learn about the Cell C brand in a memorable setting each month.

Post-campaign research found:

• 100% of customers could recall the Cell C branding and offering.

• 90% of customers had a positive experience with the brand.

• 80% of customers would consider switching to Cell C.

We also provided clear community benefits and goodwill as our décor revamps provided much needed cash injections into salons that had been struggling due to COVID-19.

Best of all, we revitalised Cell C’s business following the closure of more than half its network of stores.

Our efforts drove a 30% increase in data bundles and airtime sales – worth around $2.2m to Cell C.

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