Magazine article Marketing

Higher Calling

Magazine article Marketing

Higher Calling

Article excerpt

There are few people in BT, let alone the whole world, who can enjoy the claim to fame that they were conceived in Frank Sinatra's Palm Springs house. But Sholto Douglas-Home can.

Whether this start in life gave the 34-year-old that old black magic may be debatable, but he's certainly one of the most high-profile marketer's around, with famous friends and family, and a name as likely to crop up in the society pages of The Daily Telegraph as in the marketing press.

Princess Diana is a cousin, Michael Howard is his step-father and Alec Douglas-Home was his great-uncle. He's been spotted in Hello! and his wedding was featured in Tatler. Although wary of the ribbing he gets for his lifestyle, Douglas-Home does admit it "makes life interesting".

When he's not making diary news, Douglas-Home is the man in control of BT's consumer advertising budget, estimated to be somewhere in excess of [pounds]100m a year. That makes him one of the most powerful marketers in the UK.

Not that he'd ever admit to having excessive advertising funds. In fact, keeping a straight face and with no sign of his tongue firmly in cheek, Douglas-Home says: "It's a fraction of many FMCG companies. Sometimes I don't have enough money to do what we need to do. There's a lot more we could be doing," he says.

BT's advertising has gone through many changes since Douglas-Home started. The marketing success stories include expanding the Friends & Family membership from under three million to over 12 million in a year and winning the IPA Advertising Effectiveness Award. But winning the award attracted its fair share of controversy. "The criticism mainly came from people who hadn't read the paper. If it hadn't won people would be discriminating against BT on the basis of spend, or not liking the ads," claims Douglas-Home.

Although very proud of his part in winning the award, Douglas-Home will admit that Bob Hoskins ended up being used "a bit more than was ideal".

Advertising is his passion - he decided he wanted a career in it when he was 12. Douglas-Home spent ten years in agencies before moving to the client side. There is no doubt this agency background is valuable when working with Abbott Mead Vickers and handling over 100 ads a year.

The transition seems to have been relatively smooth. Paul Twivy, who worked with him at Still Price Lintas, says: "Sholto made the transition early when he was still young so he's gained stature and status through the marketing job. …

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