BELLSOUTH MOBILITY ROLLS $50 MIL EFFORT RESEARCH POINTS TO FUNNY BONE AS PATH TO HEARTS

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It's the campaign that market research built. BellSouth Mobility's $50 million wireless phone effort, breaking today in seven Southeast states, emerged from an intense blitz of focus groups.

WestWayne, Atlanta, which created the TV, print, radio and outdoor ads, is using a different tack from previous Mobility commercials.

1ST NEW WORK IN 2 YEARS

In BellSouth's first new major effort in almost two years, WestWayne decided to break away from highlighting the technological virtues of the company's wireless service. Instead, the ads try to tickle consumers' funny bones.

In one ad, two women are in a store fighting over a doll. In wishbone fashion, each grabs one of the doll's ear and pulls. A third woman, watching the spectacle, reaches for her cell phone and calls a loved one-who happens to have large ears. "I was just thinking of you," she says.

Voice-over says, "When it suddenly occurs to you that you need to make a call, only BellSouth Mobility works when and where you need it."

In another ad, an office supervisor is on a camping trip watching gophers pop in and out of the ground. When he reaches for the cell phone, the camera cuts to the office, where one by one his employees pop up from their cubicles saying, "Mr. Hanson? I need to talk to Mr. Hanson." The tagline: "Life's calling. Why wait?"

In developing the ads, BellSouth and WestWayne hired three market researchers to test various executions. The result: Consumers responded to a humorous approach, rather than a corporate focus.

"We've never done this much research for a campaign," said Wendy Ludlow, manager of corporate advertising for BellSouth Cellular, parent of BellSouth Mobility. "That's what we based the campaign on."

ADDICTED TO CELLULAR

As part of its research, WestWayne planners tried to take the phones of everyday users, but found they couldn't pry them away from cellular addicts. The agency even offered consumers $250 to part with their phones for a week. Few took the offer.

Alternatively, the agency had no problem giving away cell phones to first-time users. After a week of using the phones, research participants were asked to pick a picture from a pile of photos reflecting how they felt with or without the phone. Many of the consumers without the phone chose a photo of a businessman in handcuffs, while those who used the phone selected a photo of a woman holding a champagne glass.

"We had to put our gut instincts and opinions aside and listen to what the consumer had to say," said Ms. Ludlow.

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