Patty Proferes, VP-specialty brands at MCI, first launched 1-800-COLLECT, MCI's first direct-to-the consumer product supported by advertising and direct mail. After its success in the more limited collect-calling market, Ms. Proferes began looking for a product that would appeal to a wider audience but use the same direct sales channels.
"We saw a marketing opportunity starting to develop with these 10-XXX codes. Consumers were responding to them, although in a small way because the companies offering them were small," says Ms. Proferes. "MCI had the know-how to turn them into something much bigger. So instead of looking at them as a threat to our business, we looked at it as an opportunity."
Dial-around codes had been around for years, mostly promoted through direct-mail pieces that relied on consumers sampling the service. 10-10-321 is MCI's new name due to changes in Federal Communications Commission rules.
She says initial stages were scary because MCI was spending a lot of money upfront in developing advertising. "We used to have people call up customers and spend time with them. This is so different. To think, a 30-second ad could sell this," she says.