To make things perfectly clear, the Chicago-based local telecommunications marketer's current TV campaign uses vintage film clips to explain how its local services are different from AT&T's.
Three actresses-Doris Day in 1959's "Pillow Talk"; Joan Fontaine in 1939's "The Women"; and Barbara Stanwyck in 1956's "Crime of Passion"-talk on telephones as if deep in conversation with someone from Ameritech about the company's advantages over AT&T.
This summer Jerry Lewis will join the campaign in clips from 1957's "The Delicate Delinquent," showing him gabbing animatedly on the phone with someone about Ameritech, said Ameritech's corporate agency, Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis.
Other yet-unnamed stars of vintage films are waiting in the wings.
The new TV spots will continue the campaign's humorous tone. In one current spot "John From Ameritech" tells Ms. Fontaine that Ameritech wants "everyone to know we're separate" from AT&T, whereupon she lovingly replies: "So do I."
Other repartee describes the common confusion between local provider Ameritech and long-distance carrier AT&T, while elaborating on Ameritech's role as "the local telephone experts." Ameritech and AT&T next year will go head-to-head in brand wars in Ameritech's territory for local service.
The estimated $20 million campaign includes print ads, also communicating the difference between the two companies but without using movie stars.
Ameritech said the campaign has been a hit with consumers, despite the irony of using retro images to promote high-tech telecommunications advantages.
To find the clips, the agency searched through a massive vintage film database, using a CD-ROM called Cinemania '95 from Microsoft Home; agency files; and directories found at video stores specializing in old films, said Kevin DiLorenzo, integrated marketing specialist at Fallon.
Getting permission from the film stars' representatives and studios presented a challenge. "It was like solving a mystery to get permission to use the clips-there were no established channels in place," Mr. DiLorenzo said.
But Fallon said interest in vintage films is on the rise, and it's likely that more clips from the golden age of Hollywood will find their way into advertising.
"People are very nostalgic and they love seeing these old stars in 1990s settings. We hope to expand our use of this sort of thing," Mr. DiLorenzo said.