Pass IT on

For the IT executive that feels his teams' achievements deserve publicity, there is an obvious solution: pay someone to talk about it.

Take the case of British Airways: in recent months it has been pushing the benefits of its website through television and billboard adverts. But now it has gone a step further, using ‘undercover marketing'.

Internet bloggers were the first to pick up on the activity. One US-based author reported about a strange journey on the Heathrow Express train recently. Part way through the 15 minute ride, two businessmen started talking in loud voices about whether either of them would miss their flights. One was adamant he would be fine: he had used the online check-in facility now available at; faced with the prospect of a long check-in line, the other predicted he would miss his flight. After a couple of minutes of discussion, the two quietened down, before moving on to the next carriage and repeating the whole conversation again.

These were not bona fide executives, of course. Rather, they are actors that BA has hired to broadcast the marketing message.

To date, such undercover marketing has been used mainly in the US to promote such varied products as alcopops and mobile phones. But this appears to be the first time the technique has been used to promote the work of an IT department.

Naturally enough, the IT team at BA is rightly proud of the work it has done transforming the IT systems at the airline, developing innovative new initiatives such as online check-in and home printable tickets. However, they are rather more sanguine about the marketing stunt. When asked about it, a spokeswoman replied: "Well, you know those creative marketing types."

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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