AT&T Makes BBDO Its Lead Agency

GSD&M Retains Ad Duties, but Now Reports to Omnicom Sibling

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SAN FRANCISCO (Adage.com) -- AT&T, the nation's second-largest advertiser, has shifted lead agency responsibilities for its estimated $3.345 billion account to Omnicom Group's BBDO, New York, the agency for what was Cingular Wireless, now AT&T's mobility unit, executives familiar with the situation said.
GSD&M, Rogers Townsend
GSD&M, Austin, Texas, which had been lead consumer and branding agency for AT&T and Southwestern Bell before it, remains on the AT&T roster with the same duties for consumer-products advertising. However, while both Omnicom shops reported equally to AT&T marketing executives in the past, GSD&M will now report to BBDO, the executives said. Agencies such as Rodgers Townsend, St. Louis, continue with their assignments for other pieces of the AT&T business.

An AT&T spokeswoman skirted questions about the change in status in an e-mail statement. "AT&T continues to work with its current roster of key advertising agencies who collaborate on planning and execution for AT&T. That has not changed." She added: "All of AT&T's key advertising agencies work together in a collaborative and integrated fashion and will continue on that path.

"Beyond that, our policy is not to discuss specifics about our business-to-business relationships. All key agencies will remain on our roster."

Directive from new CEO
When asked for comment, the Omnicom siblings referred calls to AT&T. Executives said AT&T took the action in accordance with recent directives from new AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, who in his first major keynote address at NXTcomm in Chicago last month, clearly centered the company around wireless and mobility to bring in, retain and sell new services to customers. The wireless decision, he said, is the most important network decision a household makes.

AT&T has undergone a series of branding efforts starting in December 2005, when it put $500 million behind a GSD&M campaign tagged "Your world. Delivered," which announced the elimination of the SBC brand and the inauguration of the new AT&T. More recently, when AT&T purchased BellSouth, GSD&M, along with Rodgers Townsend, was responsible for introducing the AT&T brand in BellSouth markets, and renaming Cingular Wireless as AT&T.

The marketer's overall spending outlay, $3.345 billion, is based on Advertising Age estimates that include measured and unmeasured spending on advertising for AT&T, BellSouth and Cingular Wireless. AT&T and Cingular spending along was $2.3 billion, according to Ad Age data.

As part of its merger with BellSouth, AT&T told Wall Street 20% of its savings from its acquisition of BellSouth and its total ownership of Cingular Wireless would come from advertising and marketing savings.

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