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AT&T Business dials up major brand campaign

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AT&T Business’ new advertising campaign, launched last week, highlights the company’s Internet and data capabilities but departs from AT&T’s venerable approach to branding, according to some critics.

The campaign, created by FCB Worldwide, New York, kicked off Jan. 16 in regional and national dailies including The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and will start in Business Week, Fortune and Forbes in February. The ads will also appear in many new economy and technology trade magazines.

The first print ad, "The brain is connected to the backbone," introduces the tag line: "AT&T business. Innovative network. Innovative thinking." The theme touts AT&T Business’ data and networking capabilities, as well as its ability to help customers apply networking technology to transform their businesses. A second ad, "Born to network," will feature a DNA double helix with the AT&T logo firmly implanted in the strand.

The campaign comes three months after AT&T announced it would break into four divisions: AT&T Business, AT&T Broadband, AT&T Wireless and AT&T Consumer. But the campaign, which will run throughout 2001 and cost some $50 million reflects a shift from brand management to market management within AT&T Business.

"We want to deliver a crisp message that we have a complete set of different services that clients should pay attention to [in terms of] data services and e-business capabilities," said Bill O’Brien, VP-marketing for AT&T Business. O’Brien said AT&T’s customers "have been wondering what the AT&T Business division is all about. Business services had been relying on its sales staff to deliver our message. Now, it’s time to support the sales organization."

Some advertising executives said the campaign misses its mark.

"Creatively, it doesn’t jar any preconceptions," said John Karlson, senior VP-strategic development for Martin/Williams Advertising Inc. "There’s not a brand out there with more inertia to overcome when it comes to changing perceptions."

He added: "The ad says AT&T has smart people and a powerful infrastructure, but that doesn’t seem to be anything new coming from AT&T. Unless you’re really deep into the [intellectual property] backbone you might just turn the page."

"It’s a leap of faith to think that everyone is aware of the changes" in breaking the company into separate divisions, said Paul Velardi, managing director of Lowe Lintas Direct, who earlier in his career worked on the AT&T account. "To me, the bastardization of the corporate logo on the guy’s head is a no-no. It departs from the equity of the brand."

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