About a month ago I received a mailing from our friendly telecoms
giant, BT, offering me ’25 per cent off’. ’Gosh, how generous,’ I
thought after a quick calculation.
Hurriedly, I opened the pack and read on. I then discovered BT would
give me 25 per cent off anything I spent over and above my previous
telephone bill. My delight turned to cynicism.
’When will people learn that clever doesn’t sell?’ I mused. I may be
unique, but I am continually trying to cut my telephone bill (often
unsuccessfully). ’Still, it’s probably only a test mailing, they won’t
have wasted too much money,’ I thought.
Two weeks later, I was telephoned by a woman with a Scottish accent who
worked for BT. We scrolled through the list of pre-programmed questions
together. Eventually she asked what I thought about the 25 per cent off
offer. I replied that I thought it was a bit of a con. She said a lot of
other people thought the same.
’Still, it’s probably only a test, they won’t have wasted too much
money,’ I thought, and carried on with the washing-up.
Then Christmas came and I was happily watching television when on came
the advertisements. Up popped one with BT’s 25 per cent off
’I can’t believe it. They really are wasting a lot of money,’ I thought
and reached for the word processor.
I have always been taught that the secret of good advertising is a good
proposition. There was nothing wrong in the creative executions of BT’s
latest and finest. It is just that the proposition was one of those
’clever’ ones which only serve to perpetuate the national cynicism
towards big business. Doubtless a marketing executive somewhere is
feeling very smug.
I don’t know how they can evaluate the effectiveness of such a
I suppose there might be the odd consumer gullible enough to think BT
has done them a good deal. Comparison with last year’s figures should be
possible if they can negate the effect of any price changes.
Is it BT’s fault for employing the people who came up with a proposition
like this? Is its agency guilty of admiring the emperor’s new
That is, assuming the client came up with the proposition in the first
Not being one to criticise without suggesting something different, I
came up with a few ideas of my own. How about a smaller percentage off
your whole bill for the Christmas period? How about having an off-peak
rate for 12 days over Christmas. How about a pre-payment plan so
customers can control of how much they spend on the telephone. Or aren’t
such ideas ’clever’ enough?
Send your rants to Diary Editor, Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Road, London,