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BT pulls broadband ads ahead of £33m marketing blitz

But did it fall or was it pushed?
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

But did it fall or was it pushed?

BT has decided to stop advertising any of its broadband products for the duration of its £10m broadband awareness campaign, in an attempt to avoid claims that some of the telco's own business units - such as BT Retail and BTopenworld - might unfairly benefit from the ad blitz. The move has seen BT adverts taken down from websites, and suggests that the telco recognises it could be accused of cross-subsidising different areas of its business - something it is forbidden from doing under its licence. According to sources familiar with the issue, the telecoms regulator may have pushed for the move. Oftel, though, has denied playing any such role, and insists BT is free to advertise as it likes. The £10m advertising campaign will start on 22 September and run for 10 days. It is designed to increase public awareness of broadband, and both BT and some UK internet service providers have predicted it will give a boost to the whole broadband industry in Britain. It will be immediately followed by a £23m marketing campaign for BT Retail's 'no-frills' broadband service. Some in the industry are concerned about the proximity of these two campaigns. Thus said yesterday that it planned to keep a close eye on the two campaigns, and would contact Oftel if it saw evidence that BT could be abusing its dominant position in the market. BT has confirmed that it will not advertise any of its broadband products between 22 September and 1 October. "BT will not be advertising any of its broadband products during the period of the £10m advertising campaign," a BT spokesman said. "We agreed this with Oftel, but I don't know whether this is a formal arrangement or just an informal understanding," he added. According to Oftel, though, no deal exists at all, and there is no limit on how much advertising BT can do. "There is no agreement between Oftel and BT about this. BT's advertising strategy is its decision, and it's up to BT how they run this broadband advertising campaign," an Oftel spokeswoman insisted. Sources indicate, though, that regulatory issues are at the heart of BT's decision. "I would be very surprised if this didn't involve a deal between BT and Oftel, with the direction coming from Oftel," an informed source said. The £10m campaign, called Possibilities, promises to be one of the most intensive marketing drives ever launched in Britain. It will feature Pulp's lead singer Jarvis Cocker, fantasy characters fighting at Victoria Station, and two claymation pigs from Aardman Animations. Graeme Wearden writes for ZDNet UK For related news, see:
BT to spend £33m advertising broadband
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