AT&T Corp. last week launched a $200 million ad campaign to illustrate its transformation from a telephone company to a leading provider of networking and communications services.
The campaign is the first integrated ad effort since David Dorman became chairman of AT&T in 2002. It is also AT&Tâs first major branding initiative since the company spun off its wireless business in 2001 and its broadband business in 2002.
"The bottom line is, Ma Bell doesnât live here anymore," Dorman said in a statement announcing the campaign.
The campaign was developed by Y&R Advertising, New York, and is aimed at business, government and residential customers. It includes TV, print, online and outdoor advertising.
Over the past three years, AT&T has invested billions of dollars in its network infrastructure and business units to deliver bundled services to about 35 million residential customers and networking services to nearly 4 million business customers.
"People often think of the AT&T brand as being a long-distance communications and consumer company," said Connie Weaver, exec VP-public relations, marketing and brand for AT&T.
"The business side of the campaign focuses on bringing clarity to who AT&T is and where weâre going: AT&T is the largest networking company in the world, providing networking needs for data, IT services, voice and complex networking."
First major b-to-b branding
Past b-to-b advertising by AT&T has focused on specific products. This is the first major b-to-b effort that has a broader, brand-positioning message.
The overall campaign has a tagline of "The worldâs networking company," and the b-to-b component has the theme line "Can your network do this?"
B-to-b ads are targeted at C-level executives and IT professionals and show the importance of networking to a companyâs overall success. The first two TV spots, called "Rain" and "Many Forms," demonstrate how networking moves people, products and economies forward.
"Rain" portrays a frozen world without networking that is brought to life in the form of "digital rain" that touches the lives of people across the world. "Many Forms" features binary code that takes on the form of a network, transforming itself into images such as Auguste Rodinâs sculpture "The Thinker," and the image of a hand wrestling a tornado away from a city.
The TV spots kicked off last weekend during the CBS broadcast of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament, which AT&T has sponsored for 19 years. TV spots are also running on Fox News Channel, CNBC, CNN and MSNBC.
Print ads showcase AT&Tâs expertise in different areas of networking, such as security, Voice over Internet Protocol, and virtual private networks. The ads ask the question, "Can your network turn business as we know it into business as we want it?"
The print ads are running in publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Fortune, Forbes and Network World.
Online ads, which have a similar message as the print, are running on Forbes.com, The Wall Street Journal Interactive, CNET.com, Networkfusion.com, ZDnet.com, TechRepublic.com, TechTarget.com and CNN.com.
In addition to branding, online ads are designed to drive response by directing users to more information about AT&Tâs portfolio of services on its Web site.
Gary Stein, a marketing and advertising analyst with Jupiter Research, said the timing is right for AT&T to launch a major advertising effort. "If you are going to do a big branding campaign, this is a good time because there is money to be spent," said Stein, pointing to a rebound in tech spending this year.
Stein said AT&T can capitalize on its brand recognition in the area of communications, but it may face a bigger challenge when it comes to positioning itself as a leader in networking services.
"They need to show they have some credibility in these areas, particularly security," Stein said.
AT&T will also conduct events this year as part of its marketing effort. Starting next month, AT&T will host national disaster recovery exercises combined with network security seminars in cities around the country, including Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and Washington, D.C.