Goodbye Meteor, the brand Eir found it could leave behind

The once ‘disruptive’ third player in the Irish mobile market had an eventful life

The ‘Meteor Secret HQ’, in an image from a 2016 television advertisement for the Eir-owned mobile brand.

The ‘Meteor Secret HQ’, in an image from a 2016 television advertisement for the Eir-owned mobile brand.

 

Farewell, Meteor, soon to be gone after 12 years under the ownership of Eir and 16 years after it first became possible to have a 085 phone number.

The brand, forever a teenager at heart, began its eventful life in the 1990s as the name of a consortium comprising Irish firm RF Communications and US companies Western Wireless and the Walter Group.

In 1998, this consortium won the State’s third mobile phone licence, receiving a fax to confirm the good news.

After seeing off a legal challenge from losing bidder Orange, Meteor finally launched on the Irish market in 2001 with a half-price calls deal that feels very much of its time. In 2001, people still made voice calls on their mobiles.

Meteor, the “disruptive” newcomer, valiantly played a game of catch-up with its original competitors, Eircell (sold to Vodafone) and Esat Digifone (which became O2, and was subsequently sold to Three). But in the early years the only people with 085 numbers seemed to either work for Meteor or handle an aspect of their public relations.

Rebrand

Meteor’s fate has hung in the balance ever since its new owners launched eMobile in 2010. When Eircom dropped its “com” in 2015 in a €16 million rebrand that also turned eMobile into Eir Mobile, Meteor’s future looked somewhat less bright than the orange hue of its branding.

Now Eir says the decision to ditch the Meteor name “reflects the confidence we have in the Eir brand”.

Not everybody, it is fair to say, had total confidence in the Meteor brand. One of its bids to be “edgy” went badly wrong in 2012 when it unleashed an excruciating television ad that offensively implied a man would only dance with a drag queen out of some misguided sense of desperation. The ad, which had complaints against it upheld, couldn’t be re-edited as it had also depicted dangerous cycling. The whole costly exercise was not a good look for Meteor.

Meanwhile, at the late and unlamented Meteor Music Awards, more controversy: U2 somehow ended up winning the Best Album award for All That You Can’t Leave Behind in both 2001 and 2002. The reason why has been lost in the mists of time – just like Meteor soon will be.