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Arnold in Roster Duel

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Preparing to enter the long-distance slugfest, Bell Atlantic is considering preliminary ideas from two roster shops on the task of positioning its latest offering, sources said.
Arnold Communications, Boston, and The Lord Group, New York, have presented some "strategic ideas and creative concepts," said sources. However, the client has not discussed a time frame with the two shops or approved any creative concepts.
The Lord Group now handles corporate and business-to-business chores, while Arnold works primarily on product advertising.
The agencies referred calls to the client, where representative John Bonomo confirmed "we've asked our current roster agencies to look at ideas with regards to long distance. This is not a pitch."
Billings have not been determined, but the larger long-distance players typically spend more than $200 million a year on advertising. MCI spent $474 million on ads through November 1998, according to Competitive Media Reporting, while AT&T spent $233 million and Sprint $212 million.
Bell Atlantic expects to file its application for federal approval to provide long-distance service next month, said Bonomo. Once the document is filed, the Federal Communications Commission will have 90 days to act.
The New York-based telco, whose pending $52.9 billion merger with GTE Corp. would give it a countrywide communications network, is initially interested in tapping customers in markets it now serves between Maine and Virginia, particularly metropolitan New York.
Bell Atlantic has received a "conditional endorsement" in New York and plans to offer long distance there by the end of the year, Bonomo said.