World’s best ads ever #85: BT calls on Maureen Lipman for ‘Ology’ spot
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
Throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s, BT delivered some of Britain’s most-loved ads, not least when it tapped Coronation Street actress Maureen Lipman to star in 1988’s ‘Ology’.
To promote its landlines, BT enlisted Lipman to play the archetypal grandmother, Beattie (get it?), who phones her grandson to hear about his exam results. Having been told that he had failed most of his exams bar pottery and sociology, Beattie replies: “He gets an ology and says he’s failed… you get an ology and you’re a scientist.”
Interestingly, the brief wasn’t to drive market share but rather to get customers to pick up the phone more. Richard Phillips of J Walter Thompson (now Wunderman Thompson) created the spot.
Lipman’s performance as Beattie spawned 31 other BT commercials, introducing consumers to BT answering machines and car phones. In 1989, Lipman and Phillips published the scripts from the ad series in a book called You Got an Ology?, while the word ‘Ology’ became a major catchphrase in the UK at the time and Lipman is rumored to still be haunted by fans reciting it back to her.
Lipman revisited her Beattie character in 2019 for a political campaign video by Mainstream mocking then Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn.