BT calls 160m review

Telecoms giant embarks on major review of business operations as ‘It’s good to talk’ is scrapped.

BT is launching a review of its 160m creative and media accounts as part of a complete overhaul of its business operations.

And at the same time it is axing one of the most famous endlines in British advertising – It’s good to talk – along with Hugh Laurie, Nick Berry, Dirvla Kirwan and the ghost of Bob Hoskins.

Pitches for the accounts, held by Abbott Mead Vickers.BBDO, Partners BDDH, IDK Media and Zenith Media, will be held in the spring. The review is the most significant shake-up in BT’s supplier relationships since privatisation.

“We are restructuring all our supplier relationships, whether they supply widgets or design,” says a BT spokesman. “This includes virtually everything BT does.”

Both the media and main creative accounts are subject to statutory reviews under European Union competition law but that is not the primary reason for the review. The media account was last reviewed in 1994, when BT spent less than a third of its current 50m budget. A legal tender document will be published in the new year.

There will be a full review and pitch for both the media and creative accounts, plus telemarketing and other marketing services. The company has already started a review of its direct marketing, which has been dogged by controversy surrounding the consultant Ed Carter and the appointment of the US agency Devon Direct.

IDK has handled BT’s centralised TV and cinema buying for eight years and retained the account after Zenith, which holds the poster and press buying and planning responsibilities, bid to take over the whole account in 1994. The media review will be handled by media strategy manager Jane Bates.

BT will introduce a Tenderers Supplier List of preferred agencies which meet basic criteria to replace the existing Qualified Supplier List. It is likely to mean fewer agencies will be employed.

Meanwhile, Christmas will see the unveiling of “BT Talking Direct”, starring ordinary people in their everyday lives. The move to drop the star-studded “It’s good to talk” advertising, which launched in April 1994, has been taken to allow a shift in strategic direction.

“There will be no more shouting from BT saying how wonderful it is,” says a source. “The ads will be more about the quality of service and what BT can do to improve people’s lives. BT no longer needs the personalities – it has the confidence to speak directly to its customers.”

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