St Luke's launches BT ET replacement spot

A blockbuster TV commercial in which ordinary people are seen

talking directly to an audience of millions in a virtual "communications

theatre" is to spearhead a new BT initiative to sustain its place as the

pre-eminent telecoms brand.

The 90-second film, which made its debut this week, is the culmination

of a wide-ranging review of advertising by the troubled company in a

changing communications environment and marks the end of ET, Steven

Spielberg's friendly alien, as its brand icon.

Instead, BT chiefs have opted for an advertising spectacular - with

special effects devised by some of the production team which worked on

the Oscar-winning movie Gladiator - to make the company's case as a

communications all-rounder.

The commercial is the first to be produced by St Luke's since its

appointment to take the lead on BT's corporate advertising. TV buying is

by the Allmond Partnership.

Now the campaign - under the theme "The more connections we make, the

more possibilities we have" - will set the style and tone for work

produced by BT's other roster agencies. They are Abbott Mead Vickers

BBDO, which handles consumer advertising, and M&C Saatchi, which looks

after business communications.

"This campaign is the essence of what we want BT to be about," Amanda

Mackenzie, BT's director of marketing services, said.

Shot in South Africa by Jake Scott, the son of the Gladiator director

Ridley Scott, the film is set in a gigantic "virtual" stadium in which

the world's internet users are seated.

In the centre of the arena a range of people interact with the


A small girl asks a question about anatomy which a white-coated

scientist jumps up to answer; a cockney fishmonger uses his market stall

patter to sell his wares.

A mother carrying a baby asks if there are others who share her

anxieties about coping. Hundreds of other women stand up. The commercial

was written by Andy Drugan and art directed by Simon Friedberg. The

production company is RSA Films.

Mackenzie said: "Thirty-four million people use BT every month, making

it the biggest brand of its kind. But people in research groups were

telling us that although we were the brand of the communications

society, we weren't necessarily saying so. The campaign is about how

technology binds us together."

The film has already sparked criticism that it fails to reflect the fact

that BT is no longer a single entity but a number of autonomous units.

But Neil Henderson, the BT account director at St Luke's, said: "The

commercial is suitable for what-ever markets BT chooses to be in - which

is why we have deliberately not shown any bits of technology."