Shops Await Cingular, AT&T Shakeout

NEW YORK Cingular Wireless’ $41 billion purchase of AT&T Wireless will likely result in a major identity overhaul for the new company, which is expected to phase out the AT&T brand and proceed under the Cingular banner.

It is not yet clear, however, which of the merging entities’ ad agencies will be asked to re-introduce what will be the largest wireless marketer in the country when the acquisition is completed, probably by the end of the year.

Sources said any number of scenarios could play out, involving a review of or consolidation of the account. In 2003, AT&T Wireless spent $435 million in media, and Cingular Wireless spent about $400 million, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Omnicom Group’s BBDO has handled Cingular Wireless since October 2000 and could emerge as the dominant agency. It broke its first Cingular campaign in 2001 tagged, “What do you have to say?” Subsequent work has featured the Atlanta company’s custom-service plans and was tagged, “Cingular fits you best.” In November, Cingular launched a campaign via BBDO to tout a new law allowing consumers who switch wireless service providers to keep their phone numbers. The national campaign was tagged, “Keep your number, keep your minutes.” BBDO’s media sibling, OMD, handles planning and buying.

Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco won AT&T Wireless corporate-image ad duties in July from WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather. In October 2003, Goodby broke a corporate-image campaign for AT&T Wireless tagged, “Reach out.” TV spots showed a man on a business trip calling his daughter on a cell phone; another showed a woman on a bus receiving a cell phone call in which she could see and hear her son playing at a piano recital.

Ogilvy continues to handle retail newspaper and business-to-business advertising, as well as AT&T’s pay-as-you-go service, GoPhone. WPP’s Mediaedge:cia handles media for AT&T Wireless.

Neither client was immediately available for comment. Agency executives declined to comment.

—with Celeste Ward