Mrs Merton, the character created by the comedian, Caroline Hook, has
made her commercials debut in what is also British Gas’s first TV
campaign to promote domestic sales of gas since the ‘control’
commercials ceased two years ago.
BMP DDB Needham’s pounds 4 million, six-week campaign coincides with the
start of the phasing out of British Gas’s monopoly at the end of next
month, when eight companies will compete for supply contracts to the
South-west region’s 500,000 domestic customers.
The ads have been launched in the South-west this week and a national
primetime roll-out will follow on 2 April, gathering momentum towards
the national deregulation of domestic gas supplies in two years’ time.
While the new competition, including Total and Calortex, is focusing on
lower prices to lure the consumer away from British Gas, the incumbent
is barred from using a specific price proposition and is instead
focusing on added-value services to protect its customer base.
The ad blitz is spearheaded by two 50-second spots. The first promotes
the British Gas Password Scheme, while the second pushes the Energy
Efficiency Advice Service, a new brand that offers energy efficiency
surveys and advice for customers at home.
In the first film, Mrs Merton plays a nosey neighbour and takes an
energy efficiency advice questionnaire over the road as an excuse to
find out who’s moving in. Mrs Merton claims the last occupant of the
house, Mr Townsend, was ‘always complaining about his draughty passages,
the saucy old devil’.
In the second, Mrs Merton visits her friend, Rita. When a man arrives on
the doorstep announcing he is Romeo, she thinks he is Rita’s ‘fancy
man’, only to discover he’s from British Gas, confirming his identity by
the personal password scheme.
Both commercials were directed through Limelight by John Lloyd, who is
best known for his Phileas Fogg (Bartle Bogle Hegarty) and Barclaycard
(BMP DDB Needham) commercials, as well as the television series,
The ads were written by Paul Burke and art directed by Stuart Buckley.