BBDO, Cingular: Meeting of the Minds

NEW YORK The first of Advertising Week’s “Dynamic Duos” series kicked off on Monday with a presentation by Omnicom Group’s BBDO worldwide CEO Andrew Robertson and one of that shop’s largest clients, Cingular Wireless.

Robertson, along with Cingular CMO Marc Lefar, showcased the campaign that their teams conceived to introduce Cingular’s merger with AT&T Wireless (announced last year) and outlined the strategy behind the series and the ways in which both corporate identities were melded.

The hour-long presentation at the Time Warner Center here opened with a scene from the 1969 film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The stars, Robert Redford and Paul Newman, are on a cliff, contemplating a jump to elude a posse. After some debate, they take the plunge together.

Lefar said the scene illustrates the “sink or swim” situation of the merger with AT&T Wireless and the “enormity of the risk” in developing an effective campaign message. The work was tagged “Raising the bar,” to highlight the greater coverage of the new company’s wireless service.

When the campaign broke in October 2004 (preceding the merger’s closing in 2005), part of the promotion involved a direct mailing to AT&T Wireless customers in the form of a wedding invitation. As such, the Dynamic Duos presentation played off the wedding theme and was entitled: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Each element spoke to the merger, i.e., the long-established AT&T brand (old); the blue color in the five bars denoting the service’s signal (blue); the equities of each brand (borrowed); and the merged company itself (new).

The immediate goal was to neutralize the perceived strength of Verizon, which had the highest awareness and market share at the time, Lefar said. “Although business was accelerating, our collection of assets and scale were not sufficient to close the gap,” he said. “And Verizon showed no signs of slowing down.”

As a new entity, Cingular Wireless became the largest wireless carrier with $30 billion in revenue and more than 45 million customers. But the message had to give existing AT&T customers reasons to remain with the company and potential subscribers reasons to switch to Cingular.

The campaign was a success, Lefar and Robertson said, because “Raising the bar” quickly established awareness through an extensive media plan and coherent message. Detail was also key. The new brand was visually and consistently established by incorporating images of the raised bars in everyday occurrences such as airplanes flying in that formation and items stacked to those heights in a grocery store.

Robertson then laid out what he called the “five must-haves” to successfully managing the message of a merger of that size:

o Set clear goals early on.
o Plan exhaustively, i.e., anticipate everything competitors might do in their messaging.
o Create brilliantly (the work).
o Execute flawlessly, i.e., have a pinpointed media plan and excellent creative to go with it.
o Integrate completely (the “bars” and all the merger elements appeared in every visual advertisement in some way).

BBDO’s TV spots for Cingular Wireless’ specific services were interspersed throughout the presentation. These included ads that leveraged the client’s NCAA partnership, the GoPhone (a pay as you go plan) and the new Motorola Rokr phone, which can play iTunes and is available only through Cingular Wireless.

Dynamic Duos is sponsored by the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies and is meant to showcase the successful client-agency partnership. The series continues today with McCann Erickson and The Ad Council.