AMERITECH, AT&T CALL UP ADSFOR NET ACCESS SERVICES: AOL PROBLEMS CREATE WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

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As busy signals plagued America Online last week, telecom-based Internet access pro-viders geared up for a major marketing push.Only a few weeks into the new year, and already a marketing blitz is underway for providers of Internet access.

Ameritech Corp. today breaks a TV, radio, online and print campaign from Leap Group, Chicago, for its new Ameritech.net (http://www.ameritech.net), launching in Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit.With the goal of making the Net less intimidating, one spot features a first grader showing her mom how to get on the Web. Another execution wonders aloud about what happened to all the computer geeks from school. Turns out Ameritech hired them to staff its customer service lines."We're trying to show consumers that with Ameritech.net, Internet access is so easy to use that even an adult can do it," said Cristina Rodgers, marketing director for Ameritech.net. Ameritech is offering a 30-day free trial of the service to users. After the trial, pricing will be set at $19.95 per month, among other options.

DIRECT MAIL PIECES

In the national arena, AT&T Corp. is sending direct mail pieces to 10 million of its 80 million long-distance customers to hype its WorldNet product. which launched last March. Created by Bronner Slosberg Humphrey, Boston, the mailing targets AT&T users who own computers and modems. Earlier this month, AT&T began a TV campaign for WorldNet, touting the fact that AT&T has extended its initial offer of five free hours of access per month through the end of March. That offer originally was to expire last year.AT&T has about 600,000 WorldNet subscribers, making it the country's fourth largest Internet access provider after America Online, CompuServe and Prodigy. Since AOL began offering its flat-pricing plan of $19.95 per month, many of its users have suffered horrible delays and often times have not been able to sign on to the service. The service is even being sued by a handful of users in California who are fed up with the delays.

AT&T faced similar problems after launching WorldNet-many consumers who requested the software did not receive it until months later. Executives at AT&T say that it has beefed up its customer service unit and backend operations and does not foresee any complications in meeting demand created by the marketing push that's underway now.

"There's a lot of demand out there to provide reliable access to the Internet," said Brian McCaul, district manager for consumer marketing at AT&T.WorldNet also plans to add content to its site (http://www.att.com/worldnet). It has deals with Lycos and Yahoo! and a distribution agreement with AOL."We're talking to content providers to understand what customers want to access online," said Mr.

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