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
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."