In January, AT&T promised shareholders that its enterprise arm would be its biggest by the year's end. Now the telecom giant is putting ad money where its mouth is.
During the 2015 PGA Masters golf tournament, on Wednesday, AT&T will air a trio of spots at the center of its new ad campaign, called "Focus on what Matters," aimed at business clients. Each spot focuses on one of the pillars -- security, workplace collaboration and connected devices or the Internet of Things -- AT&T is promoting in its enterprise offerings.
The campaign, which expands into print and digital, reveals the brand's bid to fuse the public faces of its business and mobile divisions, which were consolidated in August. And it arrives after smaller rivals introduced enterprise products with hefty price discounts.
Steve McGaw, CMO of AT&T Business Solutions said the campaign emerged from the demands of AT&T's business clients, who are bogged down by unnecessary technology issues. "These concerns are real distractions to their core business," Mr. McGaw said. "They're not in the telecoms business."
"The Masters is a great venue. It becomes a great launchpad for a broad branding initiative around business," he said.
AT&T, which reported $33 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter, is expanding its portfolio with its DirecTV acquisition, expected to close soon. But on its last earnings call, CEO Randall Stephenson said the business-solutions division would be its largest revenue-generator by 2016. The unit provides back-end network and cloud infrastructure, but it is placing more emphasis on its mobile software and services. In early March, the division announced a new suite of enterprise products, in partnership with Microsoft, geared toward small business.
Since then, two of its smaller competitors came out with enterprise deals positioned as alternatives to leaders AT&T and Verizon. Sprint unveiled a workplace offering bundling Wi-Fi and cloud services with company mobile plans. T-Mobile did as well, shaping its inaugural enterprise push with its signature bravado, slashing prices and blasting the larger operators.
In wireless, T-Mobile has prompted AT&T to chase it in a downward pricing spiral. Mr. McGaw acknowledged the presence of the peskier rival, yet suggested AT&T will not engage on pricing bait in enterprise. "We take them very seriously, but we're focusing on a more integrated solutions. This is what customers are saying that they want," Mr. McGaw said. "They don't want to be bombarded with a device and a plan."
That tactic is evident in the broadcast ads -- they hint at AT&T products, but don't show them directly or list rates. The spots will run in rotation for "several weeks," Mr. McGaw said. Others may join, part of a broader marketing effort dubbed "Mobilizing Your Business," a subset of the company's bigger "Mobilizing Your World" branding. AT&T deployed a similar light-touch branding strategy in the enterprise campaign's print ads, which started running last week in the The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, The New York Times.
A digital push will follow. Last year, AT&T launched Business Circle, a website with testimonials and advice for small business owners (and spent around $380,000 promoting it).
Recent figures from Kantar Media show that AT&T spent $92.7 million promoting business products in 2014, nearly double its enterprise marketing totals in 2013. Its overall measured media spending in 2014 fell 12% to $1.6 billion. On April 1, AT&T named a new global CMO, Lori Lee, who previously led its home solutions division, which overlaps with several of its enterprise products.