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Hefty bill spurs marketing ingenuity

Some sell ad-space on billboards, others on buses; two Otago lads are selling it on their voicemail.

Paul Lawrence and Gary Pointon have a debt to pay, and they are using their voicemail accounts to generate advertising cash: “Paul Lawrence, brought to you by _________, cannot come to the phone at the moment. Please leave a message and he will return your call.”

Earlier this year, Lawrence and Pointon, both 25, borrowed a friend’s father’s boat to go diving off the coast of Dunedin.

“If I’d known the boat wasn’t insured, there was no way we would have taken it out,” Lawrence said. “No way at all.”

When a “big set came in” and the pair were unable to start the engine, the boat tipped. They were in the water for about an hour before being rescued, and left the boat anchored where it had tipped.

The boat’s owner went to retrieve it the next day only to find the anchor rope had snapped, the boat had drifted, and its engine was smashed and unfixable.

“We didn’t have a legal obligation to cover the costs, but we had a moral obligation,” Lawrence said.

That obligation came to a total of $6,000 and they are now trying to “recuperate the costs”.

The pair created a video called “What Otago Students Never Say,” which went viral on YouTube and was sponsored by a radio station. Now, they are auctioning their voicemails on TradeMe.

They have provided several examples on their listing: “Gary Pointon brought to you by Anna’s Flower shop in Oamaru, is not available. Please leave a message after the tone.”

“Paul Lawrence, brought to you by Black Betty’s Coffee Shop, Madras St, cannot come to the phone at the moment. Please leave a message and he will return your call.”

Black Betty’s owner Hamish Evans said theirs was a really creative idea, and wished the pair luck with their fundraising efforts.

“If they are as interesting as their idea, I’m sure it’ll go well.”

The highest bid is currently at $51. The last auction closes on September 25.

_Katie Kenny reporting for Stuff: Voicemail ads to pay off debt