BT goes on rebranding crusade

ET ads to go (hurrah), Cellnet name to change?

BT is to embark on a rebranding which will see it ditch Steven Spielberg's ET creation in favour of Ridley Scott's Gladiator for its adverts, and its market-leading mobile company BT Cellnet taken on a new "international" name.

A BT spokesman wouldn't give us the name of any branding company, so it looks as though it's all internal brain-storming.

Sadly, it was internal brain-storming which came up with the flawed idea of using ET the alien in a huge advertising campaign. The parallels were too easy: ET was a hero of the 80s but quickly outdated and forgotten as more dynamic and energetic sci-fi rivals like X-files appeared. BT was a hero of the 80s...

Oh, that and the fact that the ads made millions of people want to puke every time they saw one.

Instead, a £100 million budget will produce Gladiator-style ads that will "show the sexiness of the BT brand". Yes, really. Apparently, characters "based" on those who appeared in the film will be seen using BT phones. Is this the saddest ad idea ever? No, that was the ET ad campaign.

The company is also looking at renaming BT Cellnet - which is the largest mobile operator in the UK with 11.2 million customers. It also forms the core of the new BT Wireless company that has been spun off from BT in its recent re-restructure.

BT wants to give it a new international identity, so we can look forward to some wishy-washy Esperanto-sounding name. Like Accenture from Andersen or Consignia from the Post Office etc etc.

We were assured by a BT spokesman that the company said it was considering rebranding companies under the BT Wireless umbrella when the restructure was announced. Sadly, we can't find any mention of this in the huge documentation handed out that day, but we'll let that pass.

We don't quite know how this mobile rebranding is going to work. It would make sense if it changed the name of all the other companies it has stakes in in Europe. For example, presuming it dropped the "BT" and just called it Cellnet, you could have Telfort Cellnet in Holland, Esat Digifone Cellnet in Ireland and Viag Interkom Cellnet in Germany. Hmm, maybe not.

We can't see what's wrong with the Cellnet brand anyway. And it spent a fortune of those WAP ads for "surf the BT Cellnet".

BT - we know you're short of money, but if you're going to rebrand please go to a pro. ®

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