CAMPAIGN: 21st century voice for BT’s speaking clock

Finding a New Voice for the BT Speaking Clock with BBC Children in Need...

Campaign: Finding a New Voice for the BT Speaking Clock with BBC Children in Need
Client: BT Corporate Responsibility Unit
PR team: Trimedia Harrison Cowley
Timescale: September 2006 to April 2007
Budget: Undisclosed

Created in 1936, BT’s speaking clock is still a profitable part of the telecommunication firm’s business. However, ­usage has been steadily falling since the 1980s and research by BT also found that typical users were aged 55 years and older.

With the long-term future of the service looking unsafe, BT set about attracting new and younger users.

BT’s Corporate Responsibility Unit’s retained agency, Trimedia Harrison Cowley, was commissioned to handle the campaign, which coincided with the service’s 70th anniversary.
The agency decided on an ‘X Factor’ style competition to find a new voice for the speaking clock.

To boost usage of the speaking clock. To promote the service to a younger audience. To promote BT’s partnership with BBC Children in Need and raise significant funds for the charity.

Strategy and plan
Building publicity in the months ­before the competition launch was vital, so pre-launch activity in the summer of 2006 featured trials voiced by Sir Terry Wogan and aired across BBC radio ­stations.

The launch itself was held on 23 ­October and outgoing speaking clock ‘voice’ Brian Cobby and BT’s CSR head ­Adrian Hosford were made available for interviews.

A shortlist of 15 hopefuls was drawn up on 15 November, and the story was pushed in regional and local titles.

Two days later, Sara Mendes da ­Costa was unveiled as the winner live on air during the BBC’s Children in Need night.

Measurement and evaluation
Analysis carried out by Metrica measured 1,158 news and feature items about the competition in print, online and broadcast media. Ninety-nine per cent of the coverage was positive, with nine out of ten stories explicitly linking BT to BBC Children in Need. Key broadcast news programmes, including BBC1’s Six O’Clock News and Channel 4 News, featured the launch of the competition.

The competition attracted 18,405 entries, with £1.10 of the £1.50 cost of calling the competition line going to BBC Children in Need. In the three weeks following the campaign, there were an additional  2,292,971 calls to the speaking clock, representing 45,841,194 billable seconds.

Following the campaign BT made a donation of £200,000 to Children in Need as a result of increased revenue, and an extra £20,000 from calls to the competition line. 

Further research among national opinion leaders by measurement firm Opinion Leader Research in December 2006 found awareness of BT’s links with Children in Need jumping to 84 per cent – up from 75 per cent measured after last year’s appeal.

Angela Wintle, journalist at The ­Argus in Brighton, where both Cobby and Mendes da Costa live, said: ‘Having both of them living here was a good ­angle that hadn’t been picked up.

‘The PR behind this was helpful, ­especially in getting photographs and phone numbers.’

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