OPINION: Mills on ... BT Broadband

Back in the 80s someone once described the GGT style of advertising thus: "It's like attaching the client's name to a brick, and then throwing the brick through the consumer's front window."

s, as more and more ads try to disguise themselves as anything but, this sounds quaintly old-fashioned, heretical even. Me, I like ads that are unashamedly ads. Of course I like to be charmed, amused and engaged but increasingly, I find, I have neither the time or the patience to deconstruct something that is subtle to the point of self-effacement. The editor, Caroline Marshall, disagrees - she thinks it's an age thing on my part - but is generous enough to run Campaign as a "big tent" which can accommodate many shades of opinion.

One ad that you can't accuse of being subtle or self-effacing is the new St Luke's spot for BT Broadband. Talk about arresting. It's a monster work. It's not just a brick through your window. It's like someone from BT comes in after the brick, slaps you round the face and goes: "So did you get that, then? Now what are you going to do about it?"

You've probably seen the ad. With BT spending £1 million a day for the past ten days, you should be ashamed if you haven't. A BT engineer, Dave, is doing what all BT engineers apparently do all the time - digging up the pavement to lay some kind of pipe. Only this time it's a broadband pipe. The pipe "blows", and Dave is forced to round up a disparate cast of characters and objects back into the pipe. Among them are a Mongolian horsewoman, two Aardman motorbike-riding pigs, two pairs of tango dancers, a Spitfire, a space shuttle, rhinos, beat-'em-up computer game heroes, a three-headed dragon, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all. There's even a bemused Jarvis Cocker hanging on to a lamppost (don't ask me why. He must have an album to promote). It's Jumanji meets Noah's Ark.

The idea, which even rabid technophobes like me get, is staggeringly simple: the broadband pipe is so fat it brings a cornucopia of possibilities.

The scale of the proposition is there for all to see. As a dramatisation of what's on offer, it absolutely captures the imagination.

It certainly needs to do that. Promoting a new technology to a mass audience is never easy (remember those decidedly odd generic ads for cable TV which featured Dawn French, a plastercast cow and a length of cable? No? Well, you could say they set cable back several years). Too often the marketing gets hung up on the technology itself rather than its application. So far, even though broadband has been around for some time, the great British public has been slow to wake up to its possibilities, although that is as much to do with delays in its roll-out as it is with any lack of interest in the product.

But the launch of broadband matters to BT because it is at the heart of a strategy designed to reinvent it as a communications company, rather than a telecoms company. It also matters in the political and economic arena since the Government has set its stall out on the basis of modernising Britain's infrastructural backbone. You could argue it's failed with the railways and the collapse of ITV Digital has not helped, so it needs broadband to fail like it needs a hole in the head. Not least, mass take-up could breathe life into the bombed-out wreck that is UK Plc's digital economy, and we'd all be thankful for that.

A colleague commented that the ad is a triumph for post-production. You won't find many who disagree - hats off to The Mill - but the implication of her comment was that this ad is more style than substance. Wrong. This ad is a triumph of substance and style.

Dead cert for a Pencil? Short odds, I'd say.

File under ... A for awesome.

What would the chairman's wife say? "And I thought broadband was


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