- Britain's most aggressive cable group, NTL, has appointed J. Walter Thompson to help with a massive new advertising drive aimed at making NTL into a household name.
Currently the UK's third-largest cable company, NTL's interests have broadened considerably since it started as a regional TV and telephony firm five years ago. It now owns a national network supplying a quarter of all cabled homes in the UK as well as the towers used to transmit all three commercial terrestrial TV stations.
Other interests include a stake in Newcastle United football club and a major initiative to launch the only internet company to offer services through consumers' TV sets.
"NTL's marketing strategy for 1999 is clear. It's the year we cut through consumer confusion over digital and show people the real benefits of digital technology," explained Mike Hounsell, NTL's newly-appointed director of group marketing.
JWT will be NTL's first ever group agency, and will handle all strategic advertising. Its appointment will not affect CKMP, the incumbent of the group's residential and internet divisions, which has been retained for product-related advertising. A decision has not yet been made on media, which is currently handled by Carat.
JWT's chief executive officer, Stephen Carter, said: "Opportunities like this come along once in a lifetime."
JWT pitched against Banks Hoggins O' Shea FCB, McCann-Erickson and Arc Advertising for the business, which is estimated to be worth around £10 million.
An NTL spokesman said the need for a strategic advertising agency had become more obvious as NTL's activities had moved closer to the consumer, especially with its latest internet and home-shopping initiatives. She described JWT's brief as: "to try and bring in the different strands of the business and position us as a national player."
NTL has also appointed the design and marketing agency, Basten Greenhill Andrews, to come up with a new corporate identity for the group.
Staff at the Hampshire-headquartered NTL has tripled over the past 12 months, during which time the software giant, Microsoft became a strategic partner, taking a five per cent stake in the business.