GTE GOES NAT'L IN LONG-DISTANCE ADS: NEW EFFORT SPOTLIGHTS WIDE ARRAY OF TELCO'S SERVICES

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GTE Corp. last week took the plunge as the first local telephone company to launch a national ad campaign, putting it in the vanguard of a trend as telcos try to change customers' perceptions.

"We're still thought of as a regular local telephone company," said Glen Gilbert, VP-advertising and social responsibility. "The basic premise of this campaign is to bring to the attention of consumers what we've become over the years."

`PEOPLE MOVING IDEAS'

The new commercials, created by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, spotlight the variety of GTE services, including long distance, wireless, Internet, directory and even airplane phone service. The tagline is "People moving ideas."

Supporting print launched earlier this year.

Ad spending was not disclosed; in 1996, GTE spent $108 million on measured media and $84 million through November of last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The other major phone companies expected to break into the national arena are Ameritech Corp., Bell Atlantic Corp., BellSouth, SBC Communications Corp. and U S West. Because of restrictions placed on the Baby Bells spun off from AT&T Corp., they cannot yet offer long distance like GTE.

"GTE is trying to break out of the mold. Their advertising says we're not just a plain old telephone company anymore," said Jeffrey Kagan, president of Kagan Telecom Associates. "Eventually, you'll see [the Baby Bells] expand beyond their regions too, especially when they can sell long distance. . . . They want to be perceived as national players even if they're not marketing all their services nationally."

GOAL: CUSTOMER CONVERSION

Mr. Kagan said GTE's other goal is to convert more of its 22 million local customers into long-distance customers.

Currently, GTE has about 1.5 million, or 5%, of customers buying both services, he said. Those numbers could be improved, especially when compared to the 40% dual long-distance and local customers of SNET, the local telephone provider in Connecticut recently acquired by SBC.

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