Sprint returns to promo, Bergen in $25 mil effort

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Sprint Corp. is bringing back both a popular 1996 promotion and spokeswoman Candice Bergen as central player in a new $25 million campaign that breaks Feb. 9.

The retro promotion is a 10¢ per minute rate 24 hours a day to the person users call most, automatically computed monthly. Ms. Bergen stars in the three 30-second network TV spots--one which includes an appearance by her "Murphy Brown" co-star Faith Ford--and one 60-second spot for cable TV, from J. Walter Thompson USA, San Francisco.

Ms. Bergen has not been as prominent in the last year of Sprint advertising, partly because there have been several large strictly promotional campaigns and she's more closely associated with the core long-distance product.

SUCCESS WITH BERGEN

"The important thing is we have used Candice very successfully in '95 and '96 to debut Sprint Sense. In '97, we were probably a little more concentrated on brand continuation with an emphasis on promotional campaigns," said Scott Ragan, Sprint senior marketing manager for new customer acquisition.

"There were a lot of questions about where she was ... in no way did we make any effort to get away from Candice. Going forward in '98, you'll see a lot more of her."

Some of the promotional campaigns included a $40 million campaign in conjunction with Radio Shack and Sprint PCS using the Jetsons to tout the Sprint Store inside Radio Shack, and a $10 million campaign from JWT with actors Rob Schneider and Tom Arnold to promote long-distance phone cards that were replicas of past Super Bowl tickets.

Ms. Bergen most recently appeared in ads introducing actors who played out humorous bits about for Sprint's "Monday Nights Free & Clear" campaign last fall. And even in that campaign there were other spots using professional football players to appeal to "NFL Monday Night Football" viewers. Hal Riney & Partners/Heartland, Chicago, did the football-oriented ads.

JWT IN TROUBLE?

Lord Group, Fort Worth, Texas, had the Sprint Store inside RadioShack work, and the $30 million business campaign launched last week with a consumer target in prime-time TV and national print is from Grey Advertising, New York.

The numerous agencies doing work for Sprint has led some in the industry to wondering if there may be bumps in the Sprint/JWT relationship.

But Sprint officials denied any problems and said they are happy with JWT's work.

Copyright February 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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