Canada’s big three Telco companies (Bell, Rogers and Telus) had the benefit of time. And, they squandered it.

That is to say, they pulled the trigger on their Fair for Canada campaign too quickly. It shows in the quality and tone of the campaign — a series of print ads, radio spots and a two minute video which have sparked a torrent of ridicule in comments left on news articles, in discussion forums (including Reddit), on Twitter and Facebook, and on blogs. Among other things, Fair for Canada lacked the creativity and resonant qualities to be effective.

Had the consortium done their research, they would have found three things.

First (and this is an easy one for them to find out given the volume of usage data they have access to), summer is a historically a time during which people go on vacation, spend more time away from current events and do less online. This means their campaign would likely reach a smaller group of people; the people who pay closer attention to current event, public affairs and online issues. This group generally has well-formed, immovable opinions. Not their audience.

Second, with the exception of June 26 (the day the Globe and Mail leaked the story that Verizon may come to Canada) and July 25 (the day Bell criticized the Government for its hasty decision to consider allowing Verizon into Canada), Canadians were not talking about the issue of wireless competition in Canada. A small segment of people were, yes. Overall, Canadians weren’t. Had the big three been doing their investigation, they might have seen some interesting discussions going on in Reddit and on blogs which they could have harnessed, making it appear as though they have the interests of Canadians and their small-market competition at heart, rather than their own bottom line. One such example they could have exploited was a Reddit thread in which a group of participants expressed concern that Verizon entering Canada would present a greater threat to small-market players (e.g. Wind and Mobilicity) rather than the big three. Opportunity lost.

Third, the message, tone and delivery of the Fair for Canada campaign is consistent with the style the big three have adopted for communicating with Canadians for as long as the public can remember. Online commentary about the Telcos and their Fair for Canada campaign is quite clear that the Telcos have done little to curry favour with Canadians over the years. This makes the ask for public support protecting the industry from foreign-owned competition a really big ask. All indications are Canadians aren’t buying it, giving the critics more air time online and in news media in their case that the time is ripe for Verizon to join the Canadian market. Those critics are now able to reach the undecided with tone and opinions which will resonate, putting the big three at a significant disadvantage.

Students of martial arts are taught to use gravity and the movements of their opponents to their own advantage. Fair for Canada was a gift in the debate — a clumsy campaign by a notoriously over-confident, under-prepared opponent. In the court of public opinion, Fair for Canada may mean the arrival of a US competitor.

UPDATED 10:30amET: I posted the following to a Facebook discussion taking place on the issue… “The campaign as a whole is a bit schizophrenic. Or, is it bipolar? Essentially, the Telcos have mashed two issues into one campaign and it’s backfiring. The potentially effective issue is that of Canadian ownership of Canadian interests (it’s a bit of a pride thing, too). The ineffective issue is that of Telco victimization. An employee calls this latter approach, Freudian. Whatever it is, it touches a nerve with Canadians, rather than strikes a chord.”