SBC Chooses Merkley Over Roster Shop Goodby

New YORK — SBC Communications has reached beyond its roster for its first major corporate campaign, sources said. The work positions the Baby Bell as a big company of dedicated staffers who work tirelessly on behalf of its customers.

Sources said New York shop Merkley Newman Harty & Partners landed the task after the San Antonio client considered creative concepts from Merkley and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. The San Francisco shop handles SBC’s Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell business.

In the past, SBC has done only limited corporate-image advertising, spending less than $10 million annually. Sources said the current effort will be backed by more than twice that amount. In all, SBC spends nearly $110 million, according to CMR.

Both shops are owned by Omnicom Group. Goodby declined comment; Merkley and the client could not be reached.

Two spots, which broke last week, feature montages of people climbing utility poles, digging ditches, answering phones and connecting wires. The action unfolds as a voiceover-from actor Tommy Lee Jones-says the employees “work their tails off” and function like the body’s central nervous system.

Screen copy identifies a quality, such as character, preceded by the word, “Infinite.”

Merkley got the nod in the wake of its loss of BellSouth, which shifted its account to Grey after a review late last year, said sources. It was the shop’s brand-image work for Mercedes that impressed SBC executives, sources said.

Also on the roster is Omnicom’s GSD&M, in Austin, Texas, which handles various media and creative assignments.