BELL ATLANTIC BREAKS ADS TO EASE OUT NYNEX BRAND: ARNOLD, LORD VIE FOR ACCOUNT OF JOINED BIZ

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Bell Atlantic will kick off a major branding campaign in October, signaling the end of the Nynex brand.

Although the campaign will celebrate the beginning of the new Bell Atlantic, actor James Earl Jones will be retained as spokesman.

Bell Atlantic executives refused to give further details of the new effort, including the name of the agency that will be handling the final campaign.

That agency could have the lion's share of the merged company's media spending. Bell Atlantic in 1996 invested $133.5 million in measured media and Nynex $41.1 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Arnold Communications, Boston, and Lord Group, New York, are now Bell Atlantic's main ad agencies, having picked up additional assignments when Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising-which did earlier efforts featuring Mr. Jones-resigned late last month.

ARNOLD VS. LORD

A Bell Atlantic spokesman said it didn't look beyond its roster agencies, and either Arnold or Lord will get the business.

Other agencies on the Bell Atlantic roster are DraftDirect Worldwide, New York, and Tierney & Partners, Philadelphia.

Bell Atlantic already has begun a transition campaign via Arnold that kicked off last week and runs through the end of September. Burrell Communications Group, Chicago, also created a transition spot targeting African-Americans, while HeadQuarters Advertising, San Francisco, created Spanish-language commercials.

The three-week transition campaign is designed to erase Nynex's brand identity and establish the Bell Atlantic moniker in its new markets. The 13.5 million Nynex customers in New York and New England last week saw a simple 15-second icon commercial with the James Earl Jones voice-over: "Nynex is now Bell Atlantic."

Commercials to air this week feature Lorraine and Harrold, an elderly couple who marvel that although the name has changed, things like dial tone, Yellow Pages, pay phones, calling cards and cellular service still work the same.

The final spot runs the week of Sept. 22 and shows the sun rising in the background and a chorus singing "Get Together." Mr. Jones again narrates and makes a brief appearance; the tagline notes, "Nynex is proud to be Bell Atlantic."

Mr. Jones first pitched Bell Atlantic's Yellow Pages in 1990 for Tierney and went on to become the major brand spokesman in 1994 for J. Walter Thompson USA, New York; Saatchi got the account in 1995.

DIFFERENT APPROACH

Bell Atlantic's massive renaming and rebranding campaign runs counter to the strategy of SBC Communications, the other regional Bell company to purchase a fellow Baby Bell in the past year.

When SBC acquired Pacific Telesis, it chose to keep the brands Pacific Bell in California and Nevada Bell in Nevada-in addition to its own Southwestern Bell and Cellular One brands.

An SBC spokesman said the company did extensive research and found that the brands were extremely strong with customers, both inside and outside the states now served by SBC.

"We are very pleased with those brands, and we would not consider eroding the

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