STRATEGIES FOCUS ON PRODUCTS, SERVICES TELECOMMUNICATIONS: PITCH TO NICHES A PRIORITY OVER IMAGE ADS

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A young african- American man stands in a barge floating down a river in Vietnam. He sits on a hilltop overlooking a former battlefield. Later, he goes to a pay phone and calls his father-a Vietnam veteran-to talk about it.

AT&T Corp.'s newest corporate branding spot from Y&R Advertising, New York, stands out for more than its emotional pull. The latest trend for telecommunications companies with proven brands is forgoing corporate brand advertising and instead developing niche and new-product advertising.

FOCUS ON PRODUCTS, SERVICES

MCI WorldCom, the recently merged forces of the No. 2 MCI Communications Corp. and No. 4 WorldCom long-distance companies, plans to do some initial corporate branding but focus on a portfolio of products aimed at different audiences.

Senior VP-Consumer Marketing John Donoghue heads the consumer ad and marketing efforts with a budget skewed heavily toward direct-marketed services such as collect and dial-around products. Although Worldcom acquired MCI. Mr. Donoghue remains in charge of the new company's marketing-without a power struggle-because WorldCom's former consumer efforts were minimal.

The portfolio Mr. Donoghue is spepherding includes MCI 5-cent Sundays, 10-10-321 and 10-10-220 dial-around, and 1-800-COLLECT products. The MCI WolrdCom brand will appear in product ads, but on its own will be reserved for business-targeted ads.

"The diversified brand strategy has really worked because we get a really good fit with customers," says Mr. Donoghue. "More than just saying who we are, I think you'll find us saying quickly is what more we have to offer. The best way for us to define what we do is through specific advertising."

AT&T remains committed to corporate advertising while it continues to aggressively market its newly developed products.

Stephen Graham, AT&T's VP-marketing communications worldwide, controls a budget that has gone through more than a year of cost-cutting by new Chairman- CEO C. Michael Armstrong. AT&T had announced earlier this year a search for a chief marketing officer whom Mr. Graham would report to, but the search has lagged with new AT&T acquisitions such as cable giant Tele-Communications Inc., and a restructuring.

Mr. Graham remains in charge of the trimmed, but still sizeable marketing budget.

"I think [corporate versus product branding] is more of a holistic discussion," says Mr. Graham. "Ultimately what you're selling to a customer is a benefit or need that a product with distinct services and features can fill. But what people really want is the capability to get what they want out of life-and that's not just about the product."

SPRINT POST STILL VACANT

Sprint Corp. has taken a third and different path in cutting a deal with RadioShack to sell its services at retail, and focusing on specific promotions with movies and events to attract consumers.

The No. 3 long-distance company spent $291 million in advertising last year, but is currently without a VP-marketing, which is why Sprint does not have a representative in the Power 50 this year.

In the Baby Bell arena, mergers still rule the day. Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp. plan to integrate; SBC Communications Corp. is in the midst of buying SNET and plans to buy Ameritech Corp.

However, because the mergers are expected to take at least a year in the approval process, immediate plans for branding and advertising are status quo.

Bell Atlantic will launch high-speed Internet access in the fourth quarter, continue to push the lower-speed ISDN service as an alternate product and looks to begin long-distance service in the first quarter of 1999.

BELL ATLANTIC REPOSITIONS

"We launched the new positioning for the company behind the `Wild things' campaign," says Janet Keeler, VP-brand management*and marketing communications at Bell Atlantic. "And we've been getting the new company on the map and starting to look at some specific products, like caller ID and call management."

Glen Gilbert, VP-advertising and social responsibility for GTE, agrees that it will be at least a year before the merger. Until then, GTE will continue its push.

AWARENESS IS UP

"Before we started our `People Moving Ideas' campaign, our target audience wasn't sure exactly who GTE was," he says. "Our research suggests awareness is now up in and out of our franchise markets, as is purchase intent. Now we need to take the next step and say now that you know us, here's why we're beneficial to you with different products."

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