Why, oh why, oh why? BT may have the answers

PETER YORK ON ADS: No 181: BT
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The Independent Culture
Why is business conducted in illogical ways? Why do people fly so far away, just to talk about work? Why do they work in big buildings so far from where they live? The answer is obvious to all except economists from Islington and their faux-naif children. Business people fly to business meetings in order to make working life more exciting and get a bit of James Bond on the firm. They go to work in faraway big buildings to give shape and meaning to their lives, to get out of the house and away from their families.

These are the kinds of questions posed by BT's new communication-technology package advertising. They're voiced by a profoundly irritating nine- year-old girl in a bright yellow duffel coat who will provoke the response "shut up and keep digging" in many viewers.

But what if she is right? These questions are important - and they're the more memorable for being posed this way, now, and by BT. The clever suggestion is that the relevant high-tech from BT - Internet, E-Mail, video conferencing, ISDN - will deliver up the high-touch, meaning quality of life. The key is the girl, asking Emperor's New Clothes questions and symbolising more-time-with-your-family.

Her start point is trees; whirling around in a forest, she asks why we use so much paper. Once established as elemental and Green, she observes and declaims against various backdrops of alienated urban life, glowing like a buttercup on a slag heap (alienated urban life is quite a thing with commercial directors now; they think it looks deep). So we get traffic "going round in circles"; the macho madness of a jet roaring overhead; grey commuters streaming into a Canary Wharf-like office; and the manic symptoms of dispatch riders ("why are men on bikes in such a hurry?").

Our junior Paxman designs her questions in whimsical ways: "Why" is written in twigs on a tree, or chalked on a blackboard. She must be the art director's daughter.

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