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David Bedford upstages 118 Runners relaunch

Cunning stunt

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The launch of The Number's new advertising campaign was upstaged yesterday as former long distance runner, David Bedford, turned up in full running gear promoting a rival director enquiries (DQ) service.

The Number - whose ads featuring two moustachioed 1970s-style runners have been elevated to cult status - has been in dispute with Mr Bedford after he alleged that The Number had ripped off his image without his permission.

Yesterday, as The Number held a press conference to announce that its 118 118 Runners had "hung up their vests" replacing them with tight, creamy yellow jumpsuits, Mr Bedford pitched up in his running gear along with a couple of friends. And instead of plugging The Number's 118 118 DQ service, he sported 118 500 - BT's DQ number.

One onlooker told us: "It was all a bit unexpected - but quite funny."

So, did BT have a hand in this stunt?

A spokesman for the telco said: "It's not down to us. Although we're flattered that he used our DQ number."

The Number denied that its decision to reinvent the 118 118 runners as "retro cops" - while still retaining their (slightly sleeker) moustaches and mullets - was a result of its spat with Mr Bedford.

"They've just been dropped for this campaign," said a spokesman, who added that there was nothing stopping them coming back in the future.

A new £10m marketing campaign featuring the new characters is due to kick off later this week.

In January, Communications regulator Ofcom upheld a complaint from Mr Bedford after it ruled that the 118 118 Runners "do caricature David Bedford by way of a comically exaggerated representation of him looking like he did in the 1970s".

Ofcom didn't ban the ads because Mr Bedford had not "suffered actual financial harm as a result of the caricature". ®

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