Bell's beavers bite it

After cutting a good portion of its middle management, Bell Canada has sent two more employees to the unemployment line: Frank and Gordon.

After cutting a good portion of its middle management, Bell Canada has sent two more employees to the unemployment line: Frank and Gordon.

Montreal-based Bell Canada Inc. is axing the beavers as its mascots and spokesanimals as of Friday. The company made the announcement in full-page newspaper ads across the country.

"It's been a blast," the ads read. "Nature is calling and we have been invited back to the forest to become teachers for a whole new generation of spokecritters."

The decision to get rid of the animals — one of the more divisive ad campaigns in Canadian marketing history — is a symbolic statement by the company that it is under new management, Bell spokesman Mark Langton said.

"It was time for a change. The beavers have served us well, they were very well known and quite popular…. But it's time to move on."

The beavers, originally launched by the Cossette Communication Group in Quebec in 2005 as Jules and Bertrand, expanded nationally as Frank and Gordon a year later. They drew high marks in surveys by ad tracking firm Léger Marketing for awareness and likeability, but were equally reviled in the same surveys.

There are no plans to change ad agencies, Langton said, and Cossette will be behind a new campaign that will roll out shortly.

Bell on Monday announced it was cutting 2,500 middle-management positions, or about six per cent of its total workforce, in an effort to shake up and streamline its operations. The move is expected to save the company $300 million, Bell said.

The company formally sealed a deal in early July to be taken over by a group led by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. New chief executive officer George Cope took the reins on July 14.

Frank and Gordon were voiced by comedian Norm MacDonald and actor Ken Campbell, respectively, and made their English-Canada debut during the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.