Cable and Wireless Communications floated on the Stock Exchange in
April this year following the merger of telecommunications provider
Mercury Communications and three cable companies Nynex CableComms, Bell
Cablemedia and Videotron. The merged company, CWC, is the largest
integrated communications, information and entertainment services
company and wanted to make an innovative start, countering the poor
customer service reputation of the cable industry.
Before deciding its own focus, CWC carried out an in-depth survey to ask
consumers their views on possible services for their homes and
This would also position CWC as a listening, consumer-orientated
company, differentiating it from the traditional aggressive selling
approach of competitors and educating consumers about potential
The pounds 50 million ’yellow’ advertising campaign - which launched in
mid-September through ad agency Rapier Stead and Bowden - provided the
focal point for the campaign, inviting consumers to participate in the
largest survey undertaken into how we communicate.
This provided the springboard for the PR campaign and press material
echoed and amplified the theme of a listening company. A Communications
Council - comprising Jackie Cooper PR, Rapier Stead and Bowden, media
strategists Michaelides and Bednash and the marketing team at CWC - met
weekly to co-ordinate the direction and tone of the campaign.
Jackie Cooper PR oversaw the placing of all stories into national,
regional, business, marketing, trade press, TV and radio. It created a
raft of story opportunities ranging from interviews with CWC’s chief
executive, Graham Wallace, and director of brand communications, Helen
Burt, to softer pieces on the making of the TV advertisements.
The agency’s founding partner and image director, Jackie Cooper
describes the campaign as the ’chocolate fudge cake method of PR’ with
multi-layers from the harder business, City and trade press through to
softer feature and tabloid layers. Further plans to progress the
campaign include community-based stunts like bringing celebrities into
peoples’ homes and the highlighting of new services such as interactive
The booking of entire colour advertising capacity of the national press
and four separate TV advertisements generated widespread editorial
There was at least one article in every broadsheet, features in the
tabloids, substantial coverage in the weekend and marketing press and
interviews with Graham Wallace and Helen Burt on TV and radio.
Ray Snoddy, the Times media editor, said: ’CWC is turning itself into
the public face of the cable industry and creating the generic campaign
the industry has long needed.’
A cynic might say that this advertising blitz was bound to garner
editorial coverage - but at times the campaign itself appeared to have a
higher profile than the brand. However, it was the ’What can we do for
you?’ angle that helped give better positioning for the brand by
switching from a hard sell to more humbly asking consumers what they
Marketing commentator, George Pitcher, noted that in the context of the
Labour landslide and the public response to the death of Diana, Princess
of Wales, this campaign showed that it is now ’cool to care just as in
the 1980s it was cool to consume’.
However, it remains to be seen whether CWC can back up its promises of
being a ’listening’ company, while the City is yet to be convinced of
cable’s viability in the UK.
Client: Cable and Wireless Communications
PR Team: Jackie Cooper PR
Campaign: ’What Can We Do For You?’
Timescale: September 1997 to March 1998
Cost: pounds 400,000