AT&T Kicks Off Major Campaign Encompassing Smart Cars, Connected Homes

Telecom Seeks to Show That It's Everywhere You Are

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Last week at the consumer electronics show, AT&T announced a host of new products and services including a Siri-like assistant, a partnership with Ford and an ambitious smart-cities initiative.

Now AT&T is kicking off its 2016 marketing calendar with one of its biggest efforts for the year: a campaign that builds on those announcements to show how the telecom is personalizing its offerings, making people's lives easier and becoming more than a phone service.

"AT&T is dramatically turning itself into an integrated carrier," said AT&T Mobility Chief Marketing Officer David Christopher. "This campaign is emblematic of the transition AT&T is making and we wanted to talk about all the things we're doing to make people's lives better."

The campaign, themed "Your network," was created by Omnicom's BBDO, AT&T's agency of record. It includes a 60-second spot that will air during the College Football Championship on Monday night, with other marketing to follow in all other media.

The commercial begins with a likeness of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson, both known for the invention of the telephone, and an early attempt to talk with the device. What began with a single connection, the voice-over says, has evolved to include mobile, business solutions, connected cars, connected homes and entertainment. The spot was directed by Ferderic Planchon, known for directing a spot called "It Can Wait -- Close to Home," part of an awareness campaign about driving while texting.

"In researching this campaign and talking to consumers, the one thing that we saw is that the mobile lifestyle permeated everything we do, and it has become so personal," Mr. Christopher said.

The end of the ad features a fingerprint, a metaphor that will run through the campaign, Mr. Christopher said, "reflecting the very unique element of the individual."

An print ad in AT&T's new campaign.
An print ad in AT&T's new campaign. Credit: AT&T

The initial ad's inclusion of so many products and services gives AT&T flexibility throughout the year to choose which particular products it plays up when, according to Mr. Christopher.

AT&T said at CES that it would expand an earlier agreement with Ford and bring its 4G LTE network to 10 million Ford cars by 2020, connecting car owners with their vehicles from anywhere through the built-in AT&T network. Users will be able to unlock doors, check fuel level, locate a parked vehicle and more.

The digital Siri-like assistant is for customers of Digital Life, AT&T's push to offer smart-home technology including connected lights, thermostats and home security. Users will be able to ask the assistant a number of things, including whether they locked their doors or armed the alarm system.

The company also used CES to give more details on the smart cities endeavor it originally announced in October. AT&T, which is partnering with companies including IBM, Cisco, Deloitte, Ericsson and GE, is initially working with Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta to facilitate a series of ambitious projects to make cities more efficient, including smart sensors that can detect water leaks and using connected technology to improve safety from both a crime perspective and in case of a natural disaster.

"We've invested in these areas for years and they're ready for prime time," said Mr. Christopher, adding that AT&T also wants to break out from the competition. "It's very different from other advertising in the category. We are working to be a different company that integrates across all these initiatives, and we want to illustrate that."

AT&T is the nation's second-largest advertiser after Procter & Gamble. It spent $3.27 billion on U.S. advertising and marketing, according to Ad Age's DataCenter.