Sprint moving beyond product ads

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Seems that the Dime Lady may not be enough.

Sprint Corp., looking to strengthen its brand, selected Grey Advertising, New York, to handle its corporate branding account, the marketer's first departure from product-only marketing.

While down the road the assignment could very well involve an estimated $40 million campaign, Grey currently is charged only with analyzing Sprint's advertising and assessing the need for a branding campaign.

The agency will look at ways of integrating the ad efforts for long-distance and local service, wireless, Internet access and paging.


Grey, which handles Sprint's business advertising, edged out consumer agency J. Walter Thompson USA, San Francisco, for the new assignment, in review for more than six months. Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco, which handles Sprint PCS, also participated but dropped out earlier this year.

"Grey demonstrated that they had strong insight into our strategic vision," said a Sprint spokesman. "They understand our role as a provider of communications services, and have a vision that will serve as an umbrella across Sprint's current and future advertising initiatives."

The decision is said to have been delayed due to internal disputes over which budgets the funding for a corporate campaign would come from. Tim Kelly, exec VP of Sprint's brand investment group, is spearheading the corporate branding effort.

Sprint does not expect to scale back its consumer long-distance advertising at JWT, estimated at about $100 million.

Earlier this month, Sprint named Jerry Gramaglia as its new VP-marketing for the consumer services group. Coming from prior positions as VP-marketing at PepsiCo's Taco Bell and exec VP-marketing at Hardee's Food Systems, Mr. Gramaglia supports the importance of product advertising.

"One of my main challenges will be to keep the momentum going on Sprint Sense," Mr. Gramaglia said. "The objective isn't as much to build a brand but to make our phones ring."


With its new assignment, Grey will work together with JWT and Riney to ensure that all future advertising--from the consumer long-distance group or wireless or its Internet group--will have the same look and feel.

"Telecommunications companies are focused on bundling products and services, and positioning themselves as full-service providers of communications needs," said Brian Adamik, a consultant with the Yankee Group. "That position needs to be reflected in all marketing messages as well."

AT&T Corp. executed a similar strategy late last year when it awarded Y&R Advertising, New York, a $100 million corporate branding account. And today, AT&T agencies McCann-Erickson Worldwide and Foote, Cone & Belding, both New York, consult with each other and with Y&R while creating ad concepts and campaigns.

Two recent AT&T campaigns, one for the consumer market and one for businesses, bear strong similarities even though they were created by Y&R and McCann, respectively. Each campaign features poignant vignettes of people using AT&T products and each is backed by a pop music score.


MCI Communications Corp. already has all its advertising centralized at one agency, Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmet-terer/Euro RSCG, New York. Most of the local-service providers, including U S West, GTE Corp., SBC Communications and Ameri-tech Corp., have either consolidated all advertising at one agency or are in the process of doing so.

"In this new deregulated era, it's all about unified marketing and simplified messages for the consumer," said Mr. Adamik.

Copyright May 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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