ANALYSIS: Crossed lines hit BT tactics

BT’s marketing department has undergone yet another upheaval with the departure of Charlotte Pinder last week. Will this lead to greater strategic clarity or more confusion at the telecoms giant? Jane Bainbridge reports

BT’s marketing department has undergone yet another upheaval with the

departure of Charlotte Pinder last week. Will this lead to greater

strategic clarity or more confusion at the telecoms giant? Jane

Bainbridge reports



Last week, as Mike Wagner was just getting his feet under the table in

his new role as BT’s head of sales and marketing, Charlotte Pinder, head

of marketing communications, was walking out of the door.



This was just the latest in a long line of shake-ups in the

organisation’s marketing department since the beginning of the year.

Wagner’s appointment last month was greeted with surprise by some

industry observers, who pointed to the fact that he is a systems and

service man, rather than a marketer.



His appointment to the marketing hot seat, and Pinder’s departure, have

raised questions about what’s happening with BT’s marketing.



Both Wagner and Pinder were brought into BT last autumn by Mike Biden,

the then sales and marketing director. Pinder was to oversee BT’s pounds

70m consumer advertising and marketing campaign, with Wagner looking

after the service delivery and Biden adopting the strategic overview of

operations.



But the dream team broke up when Biden left in January, after managing

director Stafford Taylor decided he wanted to take control of marketing.



Career conflicts



That left Pinder and Wagner in contention for the top slot. But their

personalities and approaches are very different. Where Wagner’s career

has been built on systems and customer-service delivery, Pinder has a

background closer to FMCG marketing.



The fact that it is Wagner who got the sales and marketing job, rather

than Pinder, may well be an indication of where BT sees its strategy

going.



Then there is the elusive, though much talked about, Ed Carter. In

theory, he is a consultant to BT; a semi-detached member of the senior

management. In practice, sources suggest, he has tremendous clout and a

strong say in the running of BT’s marketing.



Carter’s abrasive style would appear to be at odds with Wagner’s more

conciliatory approach, but this isn’t the first time they have been on

the same team. Both are Canadians and worked together when Wagner was at

Bell Canada.



BT insiders suggest Carter gets a bad press because he’s an outsider,

doesn’t do interviews and, when he does, tells journalists that he is

taping the conversation, and if he’s misquoted will come after them

‘with all guns firing’.



So what now for BT’s marketing under the new regime?



The company has been honing its marketing message for some time, and the

introduction of Bob Hoskins as the spokesman for the consumer was part

of that strategy. Perhaps a more revealing indication of where Wagner

will take BT is its launch of a pounds 20m direct-mailing campaign this

summer targeting 52 million consumers.



Wagner admits that BT is placing more emphasis on direct mailing than

before. He wants to see its television advertising, direct mailing and

telemarketing as one integrated campaign.



Five agencies will pitch for the new work, not all of them on the roster

set up after pitch a year ago. One will be the US agency Devon Direct,

which handled a smaller campaign for BT earlier this year.



Tough on tenders



Wagner says the latest campaign is going out to tender, rather than

going to a roster agency, because of the size and complexity of the

campaign. ‘It’s a much different scale than was contemplated a year ago

and this is a tender for a specific piece of work. Last year, it was a

general agency relationship but this is a large project which could last

a year,’ he says.



Whatever the outcome of this big-ticket pitch, there is now a very

senior marketing role to be filled at BT. Wagner says he expects a new

person to come in and handle aspects of Pinder’s job but the role may

change and, as yet, Wagner says he is not sure exactly what form it will

take. The BT marketing saga isn’t over yet.



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