'This is the way': Embattled Nortel takes aim at C-suite

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Even as it struggles to find a path out of the accounting scandals that have plagued it for the past few years, telecom equipment-maker Nortel is telling the world it knows "the way."

A global branding campaign launching today with the tagline "This is the way. This is Nortel" is the embattled company's first initiative since it announced a return to a marketing-led philosophy earlier this fall with the hire of a new chief marketing officer, former Apple and T-Mobile executive Clent Richardson.

The ads, created by agency of record independent Richards Group, which replaces Interpublic Group of Cos' TM Advertising , showcase the ubiquity of the company's services and mark Nortel's first return to TV advertising since 2001.

But don't expect the high-flying media budgets of the dot-com days, as the collapse of the telecom sector and a change in Nortel leadership has led to a more targeted approach this time around. For instance, the company's most notable effort back then depicted an executive uttering the nonsensical lyrics to the Beatles tune "Come Together" over Nortel-networked TV, Web and videophones. That quirky ad, which broke in 1999, was backed by a massive media buy estimated at the time to be between $60 million and $90 million.

`sharp-shooter'

Mr. Richardson declined to disclose spending on the campaign. However, he did characterize it as "a sharpshooter" strategy aimed at C-suite executives in North America, the U.K. and Asia who make up the customer base for Nortel's networking services.

"There was no adult supervision, in terms of allocating the budget," he said. "It is not on that magnitude. But size of wallet is not how we'll measure success. We measure in terms of awareness, additional leads, deals we close and analyst confidence."

The TV spot, as well as print ads running in global business newspapers and magazines, will compete with a corporate reputation that's been sullied by an accounting mess that cost former CEO Frank Dunn his job. An analyst who asked not to be named said the marketing push makes sense given the fact that Nortel's competitors, companies like Cisco, Nokia, and Alcatel, have a much higher media profile.

"Nortel can't afford to be absent from the scene," the analyst said. "One of their goals has to be to improve credibility and a primary thing is going to be to rely on the quality and reputation of their products."

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