AT&T Looks Beyond Roster Shops

Client Briefs Contenders on B2B Assignment for New Service
NEW YORK–AT&T has invited at least four agencies to submit marketing ideas on a new service it plans to offer in the business-to-business category, sources said. The new account could be a multiple-year contract with estimated billings of $100 million.
The move comes as the Basking Ridge, N.J., telecommunications giant tries to redefine its image to encompass its growing portfolio of services [Adweek, May 29]. It also comes one month after the Justice Department approved AT&T’s proposed acquisition of cable giant MediaOne Group.
“The space they operate in [now] is bigger than telecommunications,” one agency executive said. “They’re in cable, broadband and high-speed Internet access. Part of the assignment will be to help define what [AT&T] is, and that they’re partaking in the economy of the future.”
Roster shops Young & Rubicam and FCB Worldwide, both based in New York, were briefed on the new assignment just last week. Sources said Tampa, Fla., shop Schifino Lee, which has been handling B2B projects for AT&T for a year, was also invited to pitch, as was Cliff Freeman and Partners, here, which does not currently work with AT&T.
Bill O’Brien, AT&T’s business marketing vice president, is holding the talks.
Y&R already handles AT&T’s corporate brand campaign, which carries the tagline, “It’s all within your reach.” One of the campaign’s most recent spots showed a harried executive taking her daughters to the beach instead of going to the office, thanks to AT&T’s cellular service.
FCB has the estimated $40 million B2B account and created the campaign called “Net.working.” One recent TV spot depicted a salesman who pulls off the road to access data on his laptop so he can make a more successful sales pitch.
Both the brand and the B2B campaigns focus on “the largely voice-based” aspect of AT&T, a client source said, adding that with MediaOne, the company is now “the largest cable-television and communications company in the world. None of that relates to people placing phone calls [in the traditional way].”
Schifino Lee joined the roster last year when AT&T bought the IBM global network group, which worked with the agency. The shop launched a $15 million B2B print campaign two weeks ago to introduce AT&T business network and IP data services. The campaign, running in financial publications, features real executives, their problems and AT&T solutions. One ad’s headline reads, “Take me to the corner of speed and integration.”
Both agency and client officials declined comment. K