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Telecom NZ invokes wrath of frisky rugby fans

No sex please, we’re All Blacks supporters

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Telecom New Zealand’s annual results announcement on Friday were overshadowed by a “torrid” marketing gaff.

New Zealand’s national carrier has been forced to kill a Saatchi & Saatchi created campaign, valued in the hundreds of thousands, called ‘Abstain for the Game’ which was set to run in the lead up to the Rugby World Cup.

The first TV advertisement, which was "leaked" ahead of its scheduled launch next week. features former All Black Sean Fitzpatrick - driving a car in the shape of a fist - calling on team supporters to abstain from sex in a show of support to the All Blacks.

Telecom NZ chief executive Paul Reynolds defended the campaign describing the humour “playing the role of best man at a wedding.”

"You know, we just told a slightly risque joke. It's hilarious to his mates last night but the bride's relatives didn't like it one bit,” he said. Reynolds conceded that the backlash was "awkward," and the ad was taken of context due to the leak.

“That's where it sits, and what can you do in those situations? Say 'sorry' and move on," he said at the company’s annual results.

The carrier’s initial defence of the campaign quickly dissipated into distancing themselves from it, in a 24 hour barrage of negativity. Telecom retail chief executive Alan Gourdie said "we designed the 'Abstain' campaign with the best of intentions, and attempted to strike a humorous tone in order to rally even more support behind the All Blacks, but we got it wrong. We caused offence to some people, and for that we apologise."

Meanwhile, the company reported that its full-year profit more than halved after writing down the value of assets. Telecom New Zealand reported a 56.8 percent drop in net profit to $NZ164 million, from NZ$382 million in the previous year. The result included a NZ$257 million asset impairment charge.

The asset impairments related to the development of assets to comply with regulatory undertakings, the company said as it prepares for structural separation. Full-year earnings also included an NZ$18 million gain from the sale of the consumer unit of Australian subsidiary AAPT, NZ$42 million of costs associated with the earthquakes that struck the southern city of Christchurch, and NZ$29 million of spending on preparing the company’s bid to join the broadband project. ®

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