Rhythms swings into $50 mil push

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Rhythms NetConnections today breaks a $50 million multimedia campaign to support its digital subscriber line service, a high-speed Internet connection for businesses and consumers.

The TV, print, radio and online campaign from Bozell, San Mateo, Calif., seeks to establish a Rhythms brand and raise awareness of DSL solutions. The push by Rhythms, which went public in April, comes as frustrations grow among Internet users over long download times via rickety dial-up connections, and the inability to surf and chat simultaneously over the same line.

Next year "is the year of the high-speed data-line marketing effort," said Jeffrey Kagan, telecom industry analyst. "You'll see every company under the sun marketing like crazy because there's a first-mover advantage."

The Rhythms campaign, scheduled to run during a 15-month period, features creative with three computer animated dancers representing voice, video and data -- and the difference the service makes in a user's Internet experience.

The 30-second "Data Dancers" spot features George Gershwin's classic "I Got Rhythm" with the tagline: "Rhythms. It's where Internet connections are moving."

"We're not well-known and we need to fix that," said Chief Marketing Officer Rick Adams. "But it takes a lot of time, money and expertise to build equity in a brand."

AIRING HEAVILY

The TV spot will air heavily during network and cable news and sports programming; radio is planned for nearly 40 markets and print ads will hit The Wall Street Journal and about 40 local newspapers with specifics on the Rhythms service options.

Business-to-business print and additional TV executions are planned in 2000.

While Rhythms has primarily targeted businesses, the campaign also marks its entry into the consumer market. It will offer DSL service to consumers through ISPs with a starting cost of $40 to $50 per month for a 384-kilobit-per-second connection, about seven times faster than a standard dial-up modem.

Rhythms NetConnections is far from alone in the battle to provide bandwidth. Covad Communications Co. and NorthPoint Communications and Baby Bells such as SBC Communications and Bell Atlantic Corp. have begun marketing DSL, along with other high-speed products such as cable modems.

FCC RULING

Further accelerating the pace of DSL deployment is a recent Federal Communications Commission ruling that required Baby Bells to share their phone lines with Competitive Local Exchange Carriers such as Rhythms.

"Every home and office will have high-speed access. The wave is just starting," Mr. Kagan said. "The Web is pictures and text; tomorrow it will be full-motion video, then entertainment-quality video and virtual tours."

"You're going to see a lot of noise in the marketplace keeping the water muddy about high-speed Internet access, confusing the hell out of customers," he added.

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