Inside the 'Free Ned' media campaign

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 11, 2013 - 11:50 AM

It’s called integrated marketing and it seems to work if executed well.


Patrick Hunt of the advertising agency Hunt Adkins talked about the “Free Ned” campaign the agency created for a wireless company. The integrated marketing approach blended traditional and social media and included a Free Ned website, downloadable posters and Facebook postings.

Photo: TOM WALLACE • ,

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All across Iowa last month there was a media campaign to “Free Ned.”

But Ned wasn’t a political prisoner, he was prisoner to an onerous cellphone contract that came with his “½G Dazzlephone” which, among other features, allowed Ned to “download a whole song in less than a day.”

The advertising campaign, on behalf of T-Mobile provider iWireless, is the work of the Minneapolis advertising agency Hunt Adkins, a 37-employee shop that’s been in the business for more than 20 years and has annual billings approaching $50 million.

The campaign ran in January and included Web advertising videos, downloadable “Free Ned” posters, “Free Ned” rallies, Facebook postings from Ned’s mom and girlfriend wondering why they had lost track of him.

According to the “Free Ned” website, “Every revolution begins with one person raising a fist to the sky, often while clutching a crappy cellphone in that fist.”

Patrick Hunt, president and CEO of Hunt Adkins, sat down with the Star Tribune last week to discuss new and traditional forms of advertising.


Q: What do you call the “Free Ned” style of advertising?

A: It’s an integrated campaign. It takes traditional media and blends it with social media vehicles that are popular and you make them work together. This one is working fantastically well.


Q: How do you measure results?

A: You measure by visits, page views, time spent on the site. We received approximately 10,000 visits in the first week on, a site that had never existed before. Additionally, we have gained over 4 million impressions on Facebook.

As important are the comments being posted that are aligned with our strategy of “Freedom.” We monitored social chatter from consumers and they were saying, ‘‘Oh my God, this is me!’’ We’re leveraging a truth and when you do that you [as an advertiser] are trusted, which creates a strong foundation for any brand.


Q: Was this a tough sell to iWireless?

A: The client went for it right away. It was a new CEO and the old brand was broken. He saw this as a transition vehicle to a new brand. Free Ned said, “We get it and we want to free you from your provider.’’ We were building up our celebrity with Ned so we developed him to free others through great deals. He became our promo man.


Q: When did this campaign begin?

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