Telecom Branding Effort To Expand

Six months after launching the costliest branding campaign in telecom history, the “new” AT&T is preparing to extend the effort to BellSouth’s territory, upon winning regulatory approval of the companies’ merger.

AT&T’s $65 billion acquisition of the No. 3 carrier—expected by the fourth quarter—would erase the BellSouth name. Cingular Wireless, co-owned by AT&T and BellSouth, is also vanishing, as AT&T seeks to bundle services under a single name.

AT&T declined to comment on the status of WPP Group’s Grey in New York, the lead agency on BellSouth. However, AT&T roster shops GSD&M in Austin, Texas, and Rodgers Townsend in St. Louis have already begun research for a new phase of the existing campaign, said Wendy Clark, vp of advertising at the client. “We’re going to follow the blueprint that we did this time on our approach and do what makes sense in the marketplace,” she said, adding that the campaign into BellSouth territory will build on “three pillars: Meaningful innovation, promises kept and fairness.”

Grey declined to comment. GSD&M and Rodgers Townsend deferred questions to the client.

The current “Your world. Delivered” campaign, launched in January and estimated at $500 million, has successfully distinguished the “new AT&T” from the troubled “Ma Bell” that monopolized U.S. telecoms before its 1984 breakup, Clark said. AT&T research shows brand awareness has tripled since Jan. 1, and unaided ad awareness has quadrupled. Surveys showed more than 80 percent of customers were aware that the new AT&T was the product of SBC’s acquisition of AT&T, she said.

Independent analyst Jeff Kagan of Atlanta said dropping BellSouth is wise, despite the loss of regional brand equity. He added AT&T’s aggressiveness can be attributed to its competitive posture against No. 2 carrier Verizon. “We’re looking at a reinvention of the entire telecommunications industry over the next two years,” he said. “It’s going to be a much different marketplace and we’re going to see an explosion in ad dollars.”