Czech Republic-based BCH TeleCommunications markets an international link and a calling card under the BCH brand, focusing primarily on personal direct marketing for sales. And with tenders for global system mobile phone companies issued late in 1995, Polish telecom market expansion seems to be on the horizon.
Private network operators now are permitted only limited penetration, and infrastructure is poor.
Independent R.P. Telekom holds licenses to operate in 12 of Poland's 51 regions but has phone companies operating in only two of them.
Until its interconnect agreements with TP fall into place, its marketing is superficial, primarily in-house-created direct mail to current subscribers and PR campaigns beseeching the telecommunications ministry for fair competition.
Privatized MATAV, with $920 million in 1994 revenues, still rules the telecom roost in Hungary, but competition has arrived.
United Telecom Investment, a joint venture between Alcatel Austria and U.S. Telecom East, entered Hungary in late 1995.
So far, UTI has limited marketing to a small direct mail campaign seeking subscribers, and has a tiny ($89,000) 1996 budget.
To date, MATAV's efforts to establish brand identity have been limited to a new logo on payphones. But in November it held a pitch for a new, $370,000 image campaign with Bates Saatchi & Saatchi, DDB Needham, GGK and J. Walter Thompson Co., all Budapest, participating. No decision has been made yet.
"The key task is to prepare the company for the real competitive situation" coming within several years, a spokesman said.
The plan entails education and cultural and sports event sponsorship, but it does not promote the names Ameritech or Deutsche Bundespost Telekom, whose consortium MagyarCom holds 30% of MATAV.
Dale Higgins, director of customer services, said UTI may seek an ad agency in 1996 "if we find we've got a big job in stimulating market demand." For now, MATAV is the undisputed giant.
Not surprisingly, the newer technologies are coming into a more competitive market-one so chaotic that marketing strategies change constantly to hit the moving consumer and business targets. U.S.-based Global TeleSystems Group's venture GTS Hungary, selling cellular technology, business communications systems and pagers runs the gamut of strategies.
Westel Radiotelefon's Westel 900 GSM and Pannon's Pannon GSM use newer cellular technology than GTS. Pannon's ads are by McCann-Erickson, Budapest, and Westel uses local agency Akcio.
TelSource, a consortium of AT&T and equity owners PPT Netherlands and Swiss Telecom, is helping the Czech Republic's privatized SPT Telecom to gear up for upgraded operator services and customer service centers for individuals and corporations.
A new ad campaign for the full-service account will break early this year, following a six-way pitch among Lintas, McCann-Erickson, Grey, Mark/ BBDO, Leo Burnett Co. and Young & Rubicam. Burnett and Y&R are believed by analysts to be the favorites, having worked previously on SPT-related campaigns.
The investment plan is clearly going to be heavy," said Bessel Kok, TelSource vice chairman. "If you have to digitize 80% of your network, you're talking about $4 billion to $5 billion."
TelSource invested $880 million in 1995.
The telecom market in the Czech Republic isn't active yet; the state privatized SPT Telecom in 1995.
SPT faces "image problems," said James Hubley, marketing and sales director, not least among those who have not been connected yet.
SPT still holds most of the republic, but rivals are creeping in, including international call-back services and cable companies. SPT is also the majority owner of analog mobile phone company Eurotel, which will get one of two global system mobile service (an advanced cellular system) licenses the government plans to grant early this year.
Ten companies are vying for the other license, and the resulting competition is expected to drop the exorbitant mobile cost and to raise the number of users to 100,000 from Eurotel's current 40,000.
Contributing to this story: Sheryl Lee, Budapest; Normandy Madden, Prague.