CHICAGO – As with most large-scale mergers, SBC Communications’ acquisition of Ameritech would likely mean a consolidation of advertising and media duties, sources said last week.
If the federal government approves the $62 billion deal, SBC in San Antonio, Texas, will be making the calls. Currently, Carat ICG here handles Ameritech’s $100 million media buying account. GSD&M in Austin, Texas, handles the same duties on SBC’s $250 million business. SBC has already made one media consolidation: After the purchase of Pacific Telesis in 1997, SBC consolidated all media buying at GSD&M. On the creative side, responsibilities were consolidated by service line, with D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, for example, adding some Pacific Bell assignments to its SBC work for the same line.
Ammirati Puris Lintas in Chicago, which creates Ameritech’s ads, is likely hoping that SBC executives have a short memory. During the agency’s pitch for SBC’s long-distance account in September 1996, APL strongly urged the client against touting its Southwestern roots and local expertise. SBC, which had already settled on that strategy, cut APL only in the final round. The company’s chairman, Edward Whitacre, and marketing chief Bill Morgan are still in the same posts.
APL won Ameritech’s creative duties in July 1997 and opened in Chicago shortly afterward. The agency crafted the tag, “In a world of technology, people make the difference,” for the client.
“In this business, you have to be prepared all the time for odd twists in the road,” said Brad Brinegar, president of APL in Chicago.
One factor in APL’s favor, however, is that Ameritech is expected to keep its brand identity after the merger, as Pacific Bell did after the PacTel acquisition, said Brinegar.
Until the approval, “[It’s] 110 percent business as usual,” said Bill Pendergast, an Ameritech representative. “After that, it’s too premature to say.”
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