BT reviews £150m Wireless account

An agency contest for £150 million-worth of pan-European

telecoms business is set to be staged following BT Wireless's demerger

from its BT parent and its relaunch under a new name.

The split will result in five BT Wireless divisions (including BT

Cellnet, the mobile phone network, and Genie, the mobile internet

service), as well as associated operations in Germany, Holland and

Ireland, operating as a single unit with a combined adspend.

The prospect of a pitch moved closer with this week's appointment of

Will Harris, Genie's director of global marketing, as BT Wireless's

vice-president of marketing.

Harris is a former board account director at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO,

which handles the Genie and BT Cellnet accounts. Media buying for both

pieces of business is shared by Zenith and the Allmond Partnership.

Harris is understood to want to keep his options open about any agency

appointments. But a BT Wireless source said: "Will's arrival will give

him the opportunity to review arrangements."

BT Wireless executives believe that while the demerger and rebranding

will provide an opportunity to make savings, this will not necessarily

lead to a cut in adspend.

Harris is one of two Genie senior executives who will share

responsibility for the future marketing of the revamped BT Wireless. The

other is Kent Thexton, who adds the role of chief marketing data officer

to his current title of Genie's president.

He will report directly to Peter Erskine, the BT Wireless chief


No decision has been taken on the re-christening of BT Wireless when the

demerger is completed in late November, enabling BT to reduce its £16.5 billion debt. But insiders have not ruled out all the brands being

subsumed under the Genie name. "It's very unlikely the Genie name will

disappear," one said.

Whatever the name, the relaunched company faces a tough task to compete

with its main rivals, Vodafone and Orange, and Deutsche Telecom's


Meanwhile, BT Wireless continues to suffer from the performance of its

German operation, Viag Interkom, which had an operating loss of £95 million in the first quarter of this year. The group, which also

includes Ireland's Esat Digifone and the Dutch-based Telfort, has a

total of 16.1 million customers.

However, Harris has extensive experience in telecoms advertising, having

directed campaigns for Genie and BTinternet at AMV and played a key role

in the launch of Orange at WCRS.