With the tagline, "Call AT&T, because life's too short," the message to Europe's top decisionmakers emphasized that it is never too late to improve communications at work and at home with AT&T networks.
Life was definitely too short to keep the U.S. telephone giant out of the highly regulated European telecommunications market. And by yearend, company figures showed the campaign's effectiveness in the region's three biggest telecom markets. Unprompted advertising awareness in the U.K. jumped to 30% after the campaign from 10% in 1993; from 10% in France to 44% in the same period; and from 6% to 30% in Germany.
"One of the things I was keen to do with the campaign was to ensure we came across as understanding customers' needs in Europe," said David Gray, AT&T's director of advertising in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. "We're a communications company that happens to be American, rather than an American communications company."
AT&T was experiencing the biggest operational upheaval in its history. The industry back home was becoming saturated after deregulation in the early 1980s restructured the U.S. telephone industry, created the regional "Baby Bell" telephone companies and slashed AT&T's revenue source by more than 70%.
Overseas expansion was inevitable, prompting the group to consider making serious inroads in Europe, where nationally run monoliths such as Germany's Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, British Telecom and Italia Telecom more or less run a closed shop.
Despite having a presence of some kind in Europe since the late 19th century, brand awareness of AT&T as a communications company remained elusive. AT&T was determined to remedy that in time for full liberalization of the European Union's telephone markets in 1998. After clinching a U.K. telecommunications license in 1994, a two-pronged attack in Europe followed.
First, AT&T was restructured globally into three independent companies, the biggest of which, a global communications service, retained the AT&T name. The other two concentrated on communications hardware products and computers, respectively.
Second, AT&T appointed McCann-Erickson, London, to develop a brand awareness campaign.
"The challenge was to consider how to position a company that wasn't well known outside the U.S.," said Ian Davidson, McCann senior VP. "And we were doing this in a fiercely regulated market."
One pan-European TV spot features a well-seasoned former executive reminiscing about antiquated days when corporate empires failed to achieve all their goals because they lacked the required technology and communications systems. He points out: "Now, it is too late now." But a female voice-over responds: "You can have it now .*.*.", as he shoots across the water in his speedboat. The spot ends with the statement: "Call AT&T, because life's too short," and a telephone number.
The agency's strategy was to make the reincarnated AT&T, "an American company," stand out in the cluttered European market.
Since the campaign would be targeted at multinational and small company bosses, McCann also had to consider AT&T's position next to other communications-related brands such as computer groups IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp. and Philips Consumer Electronics.
The integrated campaign's goal was to emphasize the marketer's experience and expertise, its ability to meet the communications needs of Europe's major corporations, and its commitment to customer satisfaction at work or home, and during travel and leisure.
"We wanted to present that message to business leaders. So we looked at their media-consumer habits, which was mainly at the weekends and during business travels. We also wanted to demonstrate that AT&T understood their lives . . .," Mr. Davidson said.
The media used were mainly pan-European networks such as CNN International and Eurosport and publications such as the Financial Times and The Economist, complemented by national media in markets eager to open up their telecom industries (Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the U.K.). There was also limited use of U.K. radio for upscale audiences, outdoor sites near U.K. airports and interactive screen services in London's financial district.
Unprompted brand awareness about AT&T as a communications company soared, according to company figures. In the U.K., brand awareness rose to 49% from 29%, to 62% from 10% in France and to 70% from 17% in Germany, Europe's biggest telecom market.
The ads were designed to show AT&T networks as reliable, ones that leave the targeted company leaders free to concentrate on their jobs. The commercials' warm and emotional storylines are designed also to point out that their decisions trickle down to influence staff and family, who will then also want to use AT&T.
AT&T plans to develop the "Call AT&T, Because Life's Too Short" campaign for a global audience.