Bell Atlantic Job in Play

Arnold, Lord Pitch Long Distance Business
NEW YORK–In preparation for its entrance into the long-distance slugfest, Bell Atlantic is considering preliminary ideas from two roster shops on the positioning of its new offering, sources said.
The Lord Group in New York and Arnold Communications in Boston have presented some “strategic ideas and creative concepts,” according to sources. However, the client has neither discussed a time frame with shops nor approved any work.
Billings have not been determined, but the big long distance players typically spend more than $200 million a year on advertising. MCI spent $474 million on ads through November 1998, per Competitive Media Reporting, while AT&T spent $233 million and Sprint, $212 million.
The agencies referred calls to the client, which confirmed that it was hearing ideas from roster shops. The New York-based telco expects to file its application for federal approval to provide long distance service next month, Bell Atlantic representative John Bonomo said. Once the document is filed, the Federal Communications Commission will have 90 days to act.
Bell Atlantic, whose pending $52.9 billion merger with GTE would give it a national 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 service there by the end of this year, Bonomo said.
The Lord Group now handles corporate and business-to-business assignments; Arnold works primarily on product ads. Bell Atlantic consolidated its $125 million media buying account last year at Zenith Media and Media Direct Partners, both New York, following a review.