Just ask Tom Weigman, Angela Dunlap or Joseph Nacchio of Sprint, MCI and AT&T, respectively. They're already bundling up for what's looking to be a coolly competitive marketplace.
And it's exactly that bundling and the marketing it will entail that earns each of those executives a place in the Power 50 for the telecommunications industry.
Already, this trio controls more than $1.2 billion in measured media ad spending. But that could grow as Congress is on the verge of passing a deregulation bill that will open the industry wide, allowing long-distance providers to compete in local markets and local-service providers to offer long distance. Not to mention the entry of cable companies, wireless communications and Internet access providers, which add to the fray that's turning the long-distance industry into an increasingly tangled and powerful web of total communications solutions providers.
For Sprint, strategic planning focuses first on customer sensitivity.
"We look at what our customers want," says Mr. Weigman, president of Sprint's Consumer Services Group. "We know they want simplicity, so bundling products and services will have to be done uniformly with the customer in mind."
Mr. Weigman has been behind the push for simplicity, guiding Sprint's marketing and advertising to reflect its straightforward plans and pricing. Sprint Sense, a flat-rate pricing plan for long distance, grew out of his understanding.
Mr. Weigman, 48, believes in forming strategic alliances-such as a new local-product venture with cable companies TCI, Cox and Comcast-and entering new markets.
But with all that, "We recognize the crucial importance of a branded product," he says, adding that it's "important to introduce the new services and ventures in the most direct way possible."
The company's, and Mr. Weigman's, challenge will be to do that simply.
"As we develop new technologies in these converging markets, we want Sprint to mean speed begetting responsiveness begetting simplicity and productivity," Mr. Weigman says.
As technology spreads, so does the power base at MCI Communications Corp., where Angela Dunlap holds the key to the company's $325 million ad expenditure.
"We don't think of ourselves as a long-distance company anymore," says Ms. Dunlap, president-chief marketing officer of MCI Telecommunications, the marketing arm of the company. "We are a media company and a producer and an Internet access provider and the list will keep growing as we do."
Ms. Dunlap, 38, was responsible for the earlier launch of 1-800 Collect and was involved in marketing MCI's Friends & Family campaign. She stresses the importance of branding, packaging and partnering.
"We were one of the first companies to begin partnerships in marketing," says Ms. Dunlap, under whose leadership the company formed co-marketing relationships with American Airlines, American Express, PepsiCo and McDonald's Corp., among others, to allow long-distance users to earn credits for merchandise and trips.
"We partner to become omnipresent in the marketplace and reach new consumers we wouldn't have otherwise been able to reach," she adds.
With the industry spiraling into various communications services, Ms. Dunlap also stresses that branding plays an essential role at MCI. When introducing new services, like the online service formed by MCI and News Corp., or its entry into wireless, paging and local service, MCI emphasizes the importance of leveraging brand equity and bundling the new services in a user-friendly package.
"MCI is a strong brand, and we need to maintain that brand especially in such a keenly competitive environment," she says.
AT&T Corp. holds similar ideas to be true. And the reigning leader in Ad Age's quarterly Top 200 Brands listing-$189.6 million in the first quarter of '95 alone-is currently in the vanguard with its successful "True" campaign, which developed on the heels of strategies mandating quality and trust. The integrated campaign has been spearheaded by Joseph Nacchio, 46, president of Consumer Communications Services.
"With the speed of technology moving at lightning-fast speeds and the convergence of industries, we're going to find a lot more confusion out there," says Mr. Nacchio. "People will look to companies.....they can trust as well as look to providers who can provide all types of services."
Last year, AT&T purchased McCaw Cellular and now is beginning to market cellular, wireless and messaging under one service. Additionally, the company again is offering local service, in Rochester, N.Y., and has also launched a sophisticated Internet initiative for consumers and businesses.
"Telecommunications is the central theme, and anyone approaching it will find themselves advantaged if they can bring together local, wireless, mobile and info-based services," says Mr. Nacchio.
"Consumers will look for a branded company to feel bonded with. `Your true choice' will continue to be our anchor position when introducing new services.'
Ad budget: $189 million
Agency: J. Walter Thompson USA
Career: A 20-year package-goods marketing veteran at such companies as Marketing Corp. of America, Mars Inc., Beecham and Procter & Gamble, Mr. Weigman joined Sprint in 1991 as chief marketing officer, Long Distance Division. He moved two years later to director of multimedia and strategic services, where he was charged with developing and implementing a corporate advertising campaign, as well as directing Sprint's strategic alliances in multimedia. In 1995, he was named to his current position, responsible for residental business including marketing, sales and advertising.
Ad budget: $700 million
Agency roster: FCB/Leber Katz Partners, N.W. Ayer & Partners, Bronner Slosberg Humphrey
Career: A lifetime AT&Ter, Mr. Nacchio started as an engineer 25 years ago, then moved into various marketing, sales and network operations posts. He became president, AT&T Consumer Services Group, in 1993. With an MBA and BS from New York University and a Masters of Science from M.I.T., Mr. Nacchio has built a foundation in science and management.
MCI Communications Corp.
Ad budget: $325 million
Agency roster: Messner Vetere McNamee Berger Schmetterer/Euro RSCG; TMP Worldwide.
Career: Ms. Dunlap was senior VP-marketing at MCI in 1993 when she launched the successful 1-800-COLLECT program. The following year, she was named president-consumer markets and later became chief marketing officer of MCI Telecommunications. Prior to joining MCI in 1982, Ms. Dunlap managed product development and merchandising at Hallmark Cards and directed development for its largest seasonal-greetings line.