As a former creative at Abbott Mead Vickers when the late great David Abbott was still writing in the office with his name above the door, the late, great Bob Hoskins would encourage us that ‘It’s Good to Talk’ for British Telecom.
I watched a video of David selling in this strategy to BT with a brilliant walk-through of how this campaign delivered on a very simple premise. Peering imperiously above his half-moon spectacles he spoke of Mata Hari, Randall and Hopkirk, Jiminy Cricket as your conscience, and of how men speak less on the phone than women. It was a master class in salesmanship.
Bob became the conscience, invisible to the man in the scenario where he’d cut a phone conversation short with his mum because he ‘couldn’t talk’ at that particular moment.
Blokes obviously needed some coaching on dialling up the dialogue and who better to do that at the time than the ultimate bloke’s bloke, who pushed all those emotional buttons to connect men to their more feminine side.
Now times have changed and the entire communications landscape has changed with it. In B2B terms, talking is as necessary as ever. In a broadband driven, facetiming, skypey way, the remit has changed from just vocal transmission to, as Bob himself might have said, showing the old boat race.
In terms of mobile telephony though, perhaps it isn’t quite as crucial to keep a conversation going with the spoken word.
The Big Idea
So we now have moved on to the key visual identifier situation where paper planes have become the new metaphor for communicating. We’ve got thousands of these things bobbing about in place of good old Bob.
Old school in this paperless world, but an analogy nonetheless in which BT have invested a lot of the folding green stuff. I suppose messages might have been passed from person to person in this way once upon a time for those without a carrier pigeon or Harry Potter’s Hedwig Owl.
The latest ad that takes BT’s anagram and translates it into ‘Be There’, is putting us in the moment, whenever that moment may be, in the classroom, in the maternity ward, in the boozer, during the footie and in a multitude of council flats.
One guy is even professing his undying love to his beau by launching a paper plane the size of an A380 off of a tenement block. Thankfully an updraft stops it nose-diving onto passers-by below and creating the first paper-plane disaster and it lands elegantly on another high rise beside his beloved without killing anyone.
This is where some good, old-fashioned Hoskinesque emotion cuts through with Madness proclaiming ‘It Must be Love’.
Is it as insightful as the wonderful work of David Abbott? Does it tap into an undeniable human truth? Possibly not, but this is a difficult time to cut through from the times when BT was a virtual monopoly. And come the awards will it be there? We will see. For now, I'll give it 3 stars for production values, rather than content.