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Qwest: Must Not See TV

Long-Distance Supplier Says Never Mind At 11th Hour to Half of Focus’ Commercials
DALLAS–Two of four television commercials developed by The Focus Agency here as part of a $25 million-plus campaign for Qwest Communications were scrapped last week before hitting the air.
The spots for the Denver-based long-distance provider featured “Bob,” a fictional employee of a “big long-distance company” who threatens to jump from a building. When police and bystanders learn his occupation, they tell him to jump. In a second ad, the hospitalized protagonist is attacked by a priest, who is upset by Bob’s vocation.
Sources said the ads were nixed at the last minute by Qwest president and chief executive officer Joseph Nacchio. Client representative Lisa Hempel said the decision to shelve the commercials was made for strategic reasons the weekend before the scheduled launch and involved “several people at very senior levels.
. . . We decided to go with a technology-oriented campaign,” Hempel said.
Two other commercials developed by Focus will continue to air. They explain the company’s fiber optic network and make a low-price pledge.
Qwest originally planned to run all four television spots and determine which approach was more effective, Focus president and chief executive Mark Miller said two weeks ago.
Miller declined to comment last week on Qwest’s decision to drop the two commercials, as did Focus’ chief creative officer, Tom Moudry. The agency had previously touted the ads as a deliberate effort to attract attention in a cluttered category.