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BT gets its metaphors in a muddle

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BTopenworld is undergoing a "radical revamp" of its products and services as part of a "radical restructuring" of the telco's customer facing Internet business.

In its first year of operation its workforce has been cut by a third and it's reduced its losses by £100 million.

Speaking at the launch of BT Retail's new TV ad, Andy Green, head of BTopenworld, said he now had 750,000 customers paying for narrowband and broadband Net access.

He also said the division would launch a new brand campaign in the autumn. But despite all the talk of new beginnings, change, and a new dynamism within the company Green effectively ruled out any "radical decrease" in price for BT's DSL services. So no change there.

Pierre Danon, head of BT Retail, the telco's customer-facing phone business, reiterated many of the points raised in an interview with the Times yesterday in which he said that customer satisfaction was key to BT's future.

"I spend as much times on customer satisfaction as I do on profit generation," he said today.

And he clarified position over the £850 million costs savings he hoped to make over the next three years adding that 2,000 jobs a year could be lost in a bid to reach his target.

Sharing the podium at the launch of its new ad today, both BT Retail and Openwoe were keen to reinvent themselves as dynamic, forward-looking operations that will become a benchmark for others to follow.

Set in a stadium the ad concerns an individual's access to people and information - all made possible by communication technology.

A child, a mother with a young child, and an old man ask the people in the stadium a question - and someone replies. The child gets her question answered after enquiring what the groove under your nose is called. The mother realises she is not alone when she asks if others also feel overwhelmed by parenthood. And the old man finds an old school pal.

The stadium, we're told, is a metaphor for people being in the same place - something made possible by the Net.

Unfortunately, this great world of opportunity alluded to in this clever and thoughtful TV ad is a million miles away from what BT can actually offer. In the real world, BT's own commitment to broadband is exclusive - both by geography and price.

If the ad were a true depiction of BT's broadband achievements to date, it would be of an empty stadium with just a few people scattered around, unable to hear what's going on instead of the millions that pack BT's invention.

Outside, queues of people would be prevented entry thanks to a discrimination policy that bars four out of ten people on the grounds that they didn't live in the right area.

And of those who pass this test, many are unable to enter because the ticket price is simply too high.

Of course, that wouldn't have made such an exciting ad, would it?. Still, it's amazing what you can do with an over-hyped imagination and Hollywood special effects. ®

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