CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/ANGUS PORTER - Could three prove to be a crowd on the BT roster? Angus Porter aims to keep BT's roster ad agencies on their toes

Angus Porter, the agreeable, confident and straightforward managing

director of BT's consumer division, may well be the custodian of only a

single brand, but there is no denying it's a complex piece of

business.



As the telecommunications market fragments, it's up to the industry

leader to keep at the cutting edge of the changes - something that BT is

increasingly perceived as struggling to do. So while the news that BT

has shifted £14 million of business from M&C Saatchi to its fellow

roster agency, St Luke's, surprised many, Porter quickly asserts that

it's all part of the flexible marketing gameplan.



BT's practice is to get its three roster agencies to, in Porter's words,

"contribute to the overall strategic approach of how to present the

brand in the marketplace". And on the face of it, it would seem a

well-judged set of appointments. Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO is the large,

well-stocked agency capable of handling volume. M&C Saatchi offers a

medium-sized resource. St Luke's represents the creatively edgy agency

of the trio.



The stakes on the BT roster are high and, this time round, it's M&C

Saatchi's turn to take a bruising. Insiders point out that the agency

was given more than enough time and room to get the business brief

right. They insist that the account switch resulted from M&C Saatchi's

failure rather than a new style of account handling by BT.



"M&C just didn't crack it," an insider says. "So there comes a point

when you have to look elsewhere."



Porter, a former Mars UK marketer, insists that there is nothing

whimsical about the way in which BT manages its arrangements.



"We don't move things about willy nilly," he says in defence of the

policy. "One example of the loyalty we show is that AMV did a very

successful job on a consumer campaign for us. Which meant it got the

opportunity to do the next one."



Yet Porter is prepared to act decisively in shifting agencies when a

creative solution cannot be reached.



"We couldn't get to an answer," he says of M&C Saatchi's failure. "We

agreed we couldn't find work we were both happy with, so we asked St

Luke's."



St Luke's ascendancy on the BT roster seems to owe much to the

positioning it achieved with the Gladiator-style campaign, yet the

solution was, in fact, developed with contributions from all three

agencies. "All three agencies gave a response to that brief," Porter

says, "and the solution we went with was closest to St Luke's response

to the brief."



Still, isn't it galling for the other agencies to invest so much time

and effort and have ideas of theirs used in the finished product, only

for all the acclaim to go to a rival? "We need to be mindful of being a

good client," Porter says in response, "but to be a BT agency you either

accept that that's the way we work, or you don't."



You do wonder how the agencies privately feel about this. "When we

pitched it was made clear to us what our responsibilities would be. BT

doesn't encourage turf warfare between agencies. It establishes the area

of responsibility very clearly," Michael Baulk, the chairman of AMV,

responds.



A lot can change in a short while, though, and it seems the tide has now

turned. "St Luke's has become BT's favourite," an insider says. "The

power base that was originally at AMV has definitely switched to St

Luke's.



BT doesn't necessarily have a brilliant relationship with AMV." The

issue seems to be more whether St Luke's has the infrastructure to

manage the mammoth task of BT's business.



"BT rates St Luke's strategically very highly," the insider says,

something proved by the fact that the agency was handed the development

of the company's future global strategic positioning in November last

year. "But it's clever enough to know you need a very big agency to cope

with the massive volume of work for BT." Perhaps if St Luke's had the

hardware to deliver the volume of work required by BT, AMV's position

would be rather different.



Still, Porter intends to continue this agency arrangement in the future.

But what piece of the pie M&C Saatchi is left with is up for some

debate. "We're having a look to see what to do next but we haven't

resolved that yet," he says revealingly.



Would BT ever be tempted to go off its hallowed roster? Porter doesn't

rule out the possibility.



"I'd never say never - but there's no immediate prospect of us doing

that," he says. Still, it seems there could be further changes to come.



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