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BT is the UK's leading telecoms provider, but has suffered for several years from the lasting effects of multiple strategic blunders made in the 1990s. During that decade, BT set out to be "the most successful worldwide communications group" but somehow failed to build on its existing strengths and was outpaced by a series of more aggressive competitors including domestic rival Vodafone. The purchase of minority stakes in foreign competitors left BT with a huge debt mountain by early 2001, and the group was forced to sell off almost all of its international assets in order to repair finances and improve performance. With extraordinary lack of foresight, it also sold off its wireless division (subsequently relaunched as O2), with the result that BT became the only national telecoms carrier in any major market which did not offer its own proprietary mobile service. A new management team had repaired much of the damage by the end of 2003 and launched a new expansion drive in the UK, including the aggressive roll-out of broadband, culminating in the launch of a internet-connected BT TV service in 2006. Yet even in the mid 2010s the group was still struggling with legacy problems within its BT Global Services consultancy, and was battling regulators over inefficiencies within Openreach, the division which manages the UK's telecoms infrastructure on behalf of rival operators as well as BT. It managed to stave off pressure to demerge that business altogether - it is BT's single biggest profit centre - but was forced to ring-fence it to offer improved service to third-party customers. The company's international profile is negligible by comparison with European rivals Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Telefonica, but BT finally re-established a leading position in UK mobile in 2015 with the acquisition of EE. It also operates challenger mobile brand Plusnet. Yet another downturn in performance in 2017 prompted the departure a year later of CEO Gavin Patterson. His successor is Philip Jansen. Revenues for the year to Mar 2021 were £21.3bn, down for the fourth consecutive year, with net profit of £1.5bn. BT Consumer, including EE, accounted for 46% of revenues, but Openreach still generated the largest share - 38% - of operating profit on less than a quarter of revenues. The group has a leading 36% share of the UK broadband market - around 9.3m customers - and 28% of mobile through EE. As a result of BT's purchase of EE, Deutsche Telekom became the largest shareholder in BT with 12%. However it was overtaken in 2021 by Altice, which had accumulated an 18% stake by the end of the year. It began talks in 2021 with what is now Warner Bros Discovery to merge its BT Sport streaming TV service with Discovery's Eurosport channel.
Capsule checked 14th April 2022
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Adbrands Daily Update 6th Aug 2020: BT announced the consolidation of all its advertising business into Publicis Groupe, stripping the remaining responsibility for telecoms demand generation from long-established accountholder AMV BBDO. Lead agency on the account will be Saatchi & Saatchi, with support from Digitas. It's the second big telecoms account loss this week for the BBDO Europe network. O2 announced the transfer of its German advertising business out of BBDO Germany to Serviceplan.
Adbrands Daily Update 10th Jul 2019: BT has appointed Publicis Groupe to relaunch its new corporate brand. Few details have been released so far. A BT spokesperson told Campaign "For our next BT brand project, we have decided to change our approach and will work with Publicis Groupe, while AMV will continue to work on other projects. Our roster of agencies remains unchanged." No further details were released. Although AMV BBDO has managed the BT corporate brand for more than 20 years, the BT Group also has relationships with several other agencies including Publicis-owned Saatchi & Saatchi, which handles EE.
Adbrands Social Media 25th Jan 2019: "Be There". After a prolonged dry spell (mostly unfunny "comedy" ads with big name stars), the UK's flag-carrier telecoms business BT and its agency AMV BBDO have rediscovered their mojo in the last year or so with a series of moodier and more illustrative films, usually underpinned by a strong creative idea. It's a perfect example of the old chestnut "show, don't tell". You don't need a celeb to tell us how good BT is (supposedly). Give us a visual depiction of it. This one conjures up an excellent illustration of a household cluttered with every family member's internet content as a way of demonstrating the benefits of investing in whole house wi-fi
Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Jun 2018: Ads of the Week: "Song". AMV BBDO's latest for UK telecoms leader BT steps up a gear from its predecessor, which we also featured here. That one was sweetly old-fashioned, with paper planes illustrating the barrage of texts and data flowing through the air from phone to phone. This is a bit more urban-modern, tracking a girl's progress through an average night accompanied by New Order's timeless 80's classic Blue Monday. Great to hear that again as the soundtrack for an ad. Perhaps a bit more could have been done to tie sound and vision together. You could almost miss the fact that all the various passers-by are in sync with the music and singing the lyrics along with Bernard Sumner. Less subtle might have been more fun.
Adbrands Weekly Update 14th Jun 2018: Gavin Patterson, CEO of UK telecoms giant BT, is to depart the group later this year following 18 months of poor performance by the company and a sinking share price. BT chairman Jan du Plessis told the FT, "As a chairman this is a black-and-white situation. You either fully support your CEO or you don't. There is no middle ground." However, Patterson has been asked to remain in his role until a successor can be appointed.
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