AtCall, a 3-year-old company that currently touts about 60,000 long-distance subscribers nationwide, tapped Williams Whittle Associates, Alexandria, Va., in January to help it break through the marketing clutter increasingly clouding the telecommunications industry.
The result: print ads targeting Generation Xers now running in the Washington Business Journal and free alternative weekly The Washington City Paper, created to make fun of advertising and telemarketing techniques typically employed by telecommunications marketers.
The estimated $1 million campaign also includes radio spots.
CUTTING THROUGH THE HYPE
"Our strategy is to cut through the marketing hype that is permeating this category. . . . Consumers are really tired of it," said Bernardo De Albergaria, AtCall's director of marketing and business development. "We don't have the budgets that the Big 3 do, so our ads really have to grab consumers' attention to make the most of our resources."
Several ads feature photos of a naked man and woman with telephones placed in strategic locations.
Copy reads: "You're a mature individual, you know this is Marketing 101. So here's the pitch: . . . Now get your mind out of the gutter."
Another ad shows a picture of a man climbing a fence to escape an attack from three vicious-looking dogs (hint: AT&T, MCI, Sprint). One shows a young man, clad only in shorts, strapped to a telephone pole as if on a cross.
Mr. De Albergaria said the marketer has yet to receive any complaints regarding the ads.
The company offers long-distance service to consumers at a flat rate of 10 cents a minute; business customers are offered a rate of 12 cents a minute.
`NO BS' CARD PROGRAM
AtCall also sells prepaid phone cards and is marketing a calling card program called "No BS" in conjunction with a Publishers Clearing House mailing. It recently formed an alliance with Pan Am-The New Airline to be its long-distance partner in a frequent-flier affinity marketing program.
"Our challenge is to bring AtCall up out of everything that isn't the top three players," said Ralph Thompson, a managing partner at Williams Whittle, which is primarily compensated based on performance of the phone company.
AtCall plans to roll the campaign into other cities within six to 12 months, depending on the success of its Washington run.