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Mullen Sings Embarq's Praises

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ATLANTA Embarq, the nation's newest telephone company, plans to launch an advertising blitz June 5 to introduce its brand and services.

Sources pegged annual ad spending at $50 million. Mullen handles creative chores.

"We only have one chance to make sure we come out of the gate strong," said Dan Alcazar, vice president of brand marketing and communications at the Overland Park, Kan., company.

TV work introduces a musical trio, who sing about the cell phone and Internet woes of various characters shown in the ads.

A 60-second spot, "Hello. Hello," shows a woman leaving her house kneeling beside a row of trash bins to find a clear connection. The trio narrates with the lines, "Hello, hello is someone there? A cell phone in her hands—she only gets a signal beside the garbage cans."

The scene cuts to an automobile mechanic, wrench in hand, waiting for information to download. The trio looks through the window of the office and sings, "How long can this man sit and wait for files to download? His Internet so horribly slow, his skull just might explode."

The commercial closes with shots of angry consumers chasing a cable company truck down the street.

Radio, print, billboards, direct mail and online executions are also in the mix.

Previously, Embarq was the local telecommunications division of Sprint. When Sprint and Nextel merged in 2004, Sprint separated its local-service provider into a new company. The Federal Communications Commission and local regulators approved the new company, Embarq, earlier this month, and the company's stock began trading today on the Nasdaq exchange.

Embarq hired Interpublic Group's Mullen to provide creative work after a review late last year. The shop's Winston-Salem, N.C., office handles most chores, with the Wenham, Mass., headquarters office contributing direct and interactive expertise.

Nicholson Kovac, an independent Kansas City, Mo., shop, provides media planning and buying, which it has handled for the company when it was a part of Sprint.

"There are so many things about telecommunications that just don't make sense," Alcazar said. "Our goal is to take the mystery out of local and long-distance phone service, high-speed Internet, wireless, television and entertainment services."

Embarq operates in 18 states, with its most significant presence in Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio. It has more than 5 million customers and its total revenue last year was $6.3 billion. The company plans to open 32 retail locations this month.