GTE DIRECTORY ADS SHOW 'LEGS': LOW-KEY EFFORT AS MERGER WITH BELL ATLANTIC AWAITS APPROVAL

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GTE Corp. breaks new creative this week for its directory services, part of an ongoing, low-key ad effort as its merger with Bell Atlantic Corp. enters the final stages.

The estimated $65 billion deal cleared the Justice Department May 7, and now awaits approval by several states and the Federal Communications Commission. Shareholders of both companies vote this week.

The latest TV, radio and outdoor ads from Ogilvy & Mather, Dallas and New York, focus on people who specialize in unusual items that can be found through the GTE Yellow Pages. The tagline: "Shop on."

"These ads are an integral part of our overall repositioning for both our print product and our online Superpages. . . . We're trying to speak to our consumers about the emotional fulfillment that comes from buying what you want or need," said Mark McDonald, VP-marketing for GTE Directories.

Galen Greenwood, O&M creative director, said: "Instead of saying 'We have this book and here's what you can find in it,' we took it to the next level."

Since the merger was announced in July, GTE and Bell Atlantic have been in a holding pattern in anticipation of the push for the newly merged company, which will be renamed. The new name hasn't been announced.

Mr. McDonald and Scott Bennett, director for marketing communications, said they believe the campaign "has legs" and could be used for directory services in the merged company.

UP TO $400 MILLION

New positioning and branding efforts are expected; spending could reach as high as $400 million. Last year, GTE spent $118 million and Bell Atlantic $225 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The merger has industry watchers wondering about further ad agency consolidation within the telecom industry. Acquirer Bell Atlantic uses a handful of agencies left over from its merger with Nynex Corp. in 1996, including Arnold Communications, Boston; Draft Worldwide, Chicago; Lord Group, New York; and Tierney & Partners, Philadelphia.

However, Bell Atlantic went through a $200 million media buying consolidation in 1998, choosing Zenith Media and Media Direct Partners, both New York.

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