BELLSOUTH GOES 'DOWN-HOME' TO FIGHT AT&T: NEW $60 MILLION AD EFFORT AIMS TO BREAK OUT OF PHONE SERVICE MODE

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BellSouth Telecommunications is launching a $60 million ad campaign using humor and small-town imagery to position itself against market leader AT&T Corp.

The "Chatsford Stories" campaign, from Merkley Newman Harty, New York, features a fictional BellSouth employee named Tyler making the rounds of the equally fictional town of Chatsford.

In various humorous interactions with the locals, Tyler introduces a variety of BellSouth residential and business services.

The TV spots are meant to even the playing field between BellSouth and AT&T, said Jane Newman, Merkley's director of strategic planning.

AT&T WAS BENEFITING

Although BellSouth saw a 25% increase in its business last year under a previous Merkley-created campaign, the agency's research found AT&T also got a significant benefit from the ads. Market research found the more the advertising promoted telecommunications capabilities, the more likely it was to benefit AT&T, Ms. Newman said.

"If we kept that strategy, all we could do was be as good as AT&T," she said, so Merkley's planners came up with a strategy highlighting relationships between customers and the company.

The spots use the tagline "Nobody knows a neighbor like a neighbor" to emphasize BellSouth is a local company that can serve local residents as valued customers, Ms. Newman said.

Two 60-second commercials broke late last month and two others break this week in spot markets throughout nine Southern states, reaching 20% of the country.

In one spot already airing, a workaholic boss sees how BellSouth can help his assistant work-even on his wedding day. In the other, Tyler visits a school's career day, where the kids are more interested in whether he drives the repair truck.

SPECIAL SERVICES

The two commercials breaking this week promote foreign-language operators and small-business services. In one, Tyler welcomes a German family, and in the other he mediates between a father and son over the son's joining the family hardware store.

Additional executions will also feature BellSouth mobile phone services, Ms. Newman said.

Print and outdoor executions-some featuring a map of Chatsford-will break in

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