ET, Steven Spielberg’s human-friendly alien, is to be the new face
of BT as the company attempts to lead millions of customers through the
The star of the sixth-largest movie money-spinner of all time will front
all the corporation’s mass-market advertising - following in the steps
of celebrities like Bob Hoskins - as the ’it’s good to talk’ line is
consigned to history.
Customers will now be exhorted to ’stay in touch’ with each other, not
only through more frequent use of the phone but via the internet and
BT’s other leading-edge communications technology.
Recruiting ET was the idea of Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and was a major
factor in the agency’s successful thwarting of the odds to retain the
lion’s share of Britain’s biggest-spending account (Campaign, 19
The alien will make his debut in a series of teaser TV commercials and
posters on Sunday, to be followed by a 60-second blockbuster film next
Tim Evans, BT’s head of UK marketing communications, said ET had been
chosen not only because he had one of the world’s most famous faces but
to make people less fearful of the advances in communication.
’We want ET to show how easy the technology is to use,’ he said. ’If ET
can use it, anybody can. He brings out the child in all of us.’
ET was only signed after weeks of tough negotiations between AMV and
lawyers acting for Universal Studios and Spielberg’s Amblin
Entertainment. The deal includes an undertaking not to interfere with
the character’s integrity and Spielberg was due to see the Paul
Weiland-directed commercials for the first time this week.
Evans would not say how much BT had paid for the rights but claimed the
fees were not excessive given that the character would be featured
across all the corporation’s mass-market promotions from mailshots to
sales promotion and education programmes for schools.
The TV campaign will unfold the story of ET’s return to earth and the
renewal of his contact with humans. BT executives were worried the
character, who first appeared in 1982, would be seen as old-fashioned
and childish. But they decided to push ahead when research confirmed the
alien’s timeless popularity.
Meanwhile, AMV hopes to extend ET into a global campaign which will
cement a relationship between BBDO and the joint ventures of BT and AT&T
across the world.