Birch Blasts SBC Over Small Biz

Birch Telecom takes an aggressive approach to present itself as a company that’s more attentive to small businesses than its larger competitors in a campaign from Sullivan Higdon & Sink.

The effort, which includes the Kansas City, Mo., company’s first foray into TV, directly criticizes SBC’s Southwestern Bell as it depicts a Birch Telecom representative, a small business owner and Birch’s mascot dog hounding SBC executives over their treatment of small businesses.

“We wanted to demonstrate that Birch is on the side of small business,” said John January, an associate creative director at SHS. “And if Birch is on the side of small business, [then] obviously SBC isn’t.”

The campaign introduces a new tagline: “Your business’ best friend,” playing off Birch’s longstanding dog mascot. The new line replaces the even more direct theme: “One hundred percent of our customers fired SBC,” which was developed by SHS last year.

In one spot, the guy from Birch commandeers an SBC limo to grill the back-seat executive over his treatment of small business. The harassed exec jumps out of the car while it’s still moving, prompting the Birch guy to wince and say, “Looks like he didn’t stick that landing.”

“We are trying to drive the message further,” January said. “We felt it was time to go from just awareness to some selling messages.”

Birch competes with SBC in 26 markets in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas. The campaign, which includes newspaper, outdoor and radio efforts, is expected to follow Birch’s entry into Southeastern markets, including Georgia, Tennessee, North Caro lina and South Carolina, later this year.

SHS won the Birch Telecom account in January 2000 after a review that included Gleason/Calise/-Associates in Dallas and Bernstein-Rein Advertising in Kansas City, Mo.

Billings for the new campaign were not disclosed. Birch spent $3 million on advertising over the first nine months of 2000, according to Competitive Media Reporting.