AT&T ‘Raises Bar’ for Cingular

DALLAS AT&T begins the largest advertising campaign in its history Monday as it absorbs Cingular Wireless into the AT&T brand, the client said.

Spots include both the AT&T and Cingular logos and integrate the imagery, phrases and icons from Cingular’s traditional advertising, including the “Raising the bar” tagline, the “Jack” character and the color orange.

The ads conclude with an animation in which Jack appears to “skywrite” the AT&T globe.

The campaign opens with a spot called “Grain,” which shows a combine harvesting wheat (it also appears to be “drawing” Cingular’s familiar five cellphone bars). As the camera zooms out, the AT&T globe comes into focus.

Additional spots called “Jets” and “Cars” will break in the coming weeks.

The Cingular campaign coincides with a rebranding of BellSouth as AT&T in the 22-state service area of the former Baby Bell.

AT&T’s $80 billion acquisition of BellSouth the last week in December ranks as the largest telecommunications merger in U.S. history. Cingular, a joint property of AT&T and BellSouth, now belongs exclusively to AT&T.

Although the ad spend for the new work was not disclosed, AT&T representative Brad Mays said the campaign outlay would surpass the cost of rebranding SBC Communications as AT&T in 2006.

AT&T spent $1.7 billion on advertising in 2005 and the same amount through September 2006, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Cingular spent $1.3 billion in 2005 and $1 billion through September 2006. BellSouth spent $130 million in 2005 and $110 million through September 2006.

The campaign breaking Monday is a joint effort of AT&T’s lead agency, GSD&M in Austin, Texas, along with its business-to-business shop, Rodgers/Townsend in St. Louis. Cingular’s agency, BBDO in Atlanta, is also working on the campaign. Dallas-based Dieste Harmel & Partners is handling Hispanic advertising while Sander/Wingo of El Paso, Texas, will produce African-American-focused ads.

While AT&T said it would honor Cingular’s ties to BBDO, which were established before the merger, “we will evaluate the needs of the business and structure our agency relationships accordingly,” Mays said.

AT&T anticipated that 20 percent of its savings on operating expenses in the BellSouth merger would come from advertising efficiencies. Previously, the three companies each supported distinct brands via separate campaigns.

AT&T will add other executions, the company said. The brand ads will be complemented soon by call-to-action product ads that will carry similar transitional branding elements.

About 2,000 nationwide company-owned wireless retail outlets and p-o-p kiosks will adopt AT&T-branded signage, and about 15,000 store employees will begin wearing AT&T-branded uniforms.