BERGEN LEAVES SPOTLIGHT IN SPRINT'S NEW 'DIME' ADS: REMAINS KEY SPOKESWOMAN, BUT CAMPAIGN TOUTS BENEFITS

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Sprint is hanging up on the Dime Lady.

The well-recognized character portrayed by Candice Bergen is absent from a new Sprint Corp. campaign breaking this week via J. Walter Thompson USA, San Francisco. The actress herself is back, but in a much diminished role.

Despite the exit of the Dime Lady character, Sprint's new ads still stress the power of a dime to bring simplicity and control to consumers' lives-coming as Sprint approaches the two-year anniversary of its successful Sprint Sense dime-a-minute calling plan.

"We're dimensionalizing the ideas behind Sprint to dig into the spirit that's behind the dime," said David Riemer, senior partner-group account director at JWT.

The campaign features three serial spots that follow the trail of a dime found on the street and how it magically changes the lives of people who come into contact with it. A train arrives on time, children do their homework, a husband cleans the bathroom and phone bills become understandable.

CAMEO APPEARANCES

Ms. Bergen, rather than starring, makes cameo appearances. Despite her decreased visibility, Sprint executives maintain she will remain a key spokeswoman for the No. 3 telecommunications company.

"The Dime Lady ran with extreme success for more than a year," said Tom Kessler, director of domestic marketing for Sprint. "The challenge is always to evolve the use of her in concert with our strategy."

The Sprint campaign breaks Jan. 14 during "Good Morning America" and will run on shows including "Seinfeld," "Mad About You," "Murder One" and "Law & Order." Many of the spots will be bookended around various shows to tell the story of the campaign.

REISER IN ADS

AT&T Corp. and Foote, Cone & Belding, New York, a couple of months ago tapped "Mad About You" star Paul Reiser as spokesman for One Rate, the market leader's answer to Sprint Sense. It offers consumers a flat rate of 15 cents per minute for long-distance service.

MCI Communications Corp. is said to be nearing introduction of a two-tier flat-rate service of its own: 12 cents for users whose monthly bill is greater than $25 and 15 cents for those whose bills are less than $25.

In another departure for Sprint, it is highlighting for the first time products other than long-distance in the new spots, including paging and Internet access. Toward that end, Sprint is launching a new tagline: "Sprint. It all makes sense."

MCI earlier this month also broke a campaign that integrated various communications products within one spot (AA, Jan. 6).

Despite the new consumer campaign, Sprint is still conducting a corporate branding review that includes its core agencies-JWT, Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco, and Grey Advertising, New York.

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