When it was good to talk: BT ads through the ages

Maureen Lipman in BT ads of yore

BT’s latest ad campaign broke last week with echoes back to its iconic 90s campaign featuring the late actor Bob Hoskins with a similar focus on the brand’s role in bringing people together.

The new campaign sees BT unify its consumer-facing and B2B brands, including its sport and entertainment offerings, under a singular strapline ‘Be There’. The decision to merge the platforms will herald a new era for its marketing and so to mark the revamp The Drum takes a look back at some of the BT’s most famous spots to date.

Bob Hoskins was the first in a string of major Hollywood stars to feature in the brand’s ads which would most recently include Ryan Reynolds and Jeremy Renner highlighting the new faster speed of BT Infinity.

In the 1960s, The Goon Show star Harry Secombe would front a series of adverts to promote cheap telephone calls with the slogan 'It's so cheap to phone your friends after six and at weekends'.

In the late 70s BT adopted the cartoon character of Buzby, a yellow (and later orange) bird with attitude who was voiced by Bernard Cribbins that previously fronted ads for the Post Office.

He was introduced with the slogan 'Make someone happy with a cheap rate phone call.'

He would appear on TV, poster sites, newspapers and magazines, leaflets and telephone bill envelopes for BT and even across merchandise, such was his popularity with children who could even join the Buzby Club which at one point had as many as 50,000 members.

British actor Maureen Lipman starred in BT’s 1988 ad as over supportive grandma Beattie, chatting on the phone to her grandson Anthony who has just failed all his exams. The ad continues the brand’s ongoing message of encouraging people to pick up the phone.

One of the BT’s most popular campaigns in recent years saw Kris Marshall appear in a series of ads alongside Esther Hall. The ads chronicled his attempts to fit into the lives of his new partner and her kids from a previous marriage.
In 2013 BT released its first ad to promote that launch of its BT Sport channels. Starring Jake Humphrey and a slew of its other sports presenters, including former Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand. The launch of BT Sport shook up the sport landscape and posed a challenge to Sky’s dominance in the field.
Alec Baldwin fronted a series of BT ads in 2016 for its mobile division where he tested whether the brand’s 4G & wi-fi was as good as his dramatic delivery.

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