"We see 1997 as the only great window of opportunity," said Gail Blount, senior manager-advertising and communications at WorldCom. "We have to strike now or be forever behind the wave."
TV spots again feature WorldCom spokesman-and shareholder-Michael Jordan, with the Chicago Bulls superstar appearing in ads as a sales representative for the company.
10-YEAR JORDAN DEAL
Although full terms of their relationship are not known, Mr. Jordan, who played that role in last year's $4 million to $5 million ad campaign, has agreed to appear in the marketer's ads for at least 10 years.
The campaign's tagline is "One company, a world of solutions." WorldCom is the nation's fourth-largest provider of long-distance telephone service.
Created by Earle Palmer Brown, Bethesda, Md., the campaign is expected to run on national network and spot TV through the third quarter.
Print ads will run in The Wall Street Journal as well as the business pages of select newspapers.
"The competitive challenge now is to offer bundled business services like local and long-distance [calling], Internet access, paging and cellular," said Ms. Blount. "That's what this campaign is all about."
The humorous spots, directed by commercials veteran Bob Giraldi, showcase Mr. Jordan in business situations where he is either servicing clients or selling new WorldCom products to them.
ALI'S DAUGHTER IN AD
One execution features Rasheedi Ali, Muhammad Ali's daughter, as a restaurant owner who contracts communications services from Mr. Jordan at WorldCom. Another spot tells the story of a crazed Jordan fan called Mr. Fanzotti who continually misses the "tall WorldCom rep" on the phone, at the office and eventually at the golf course.
The company will unveil additional spots this summer when it begins to offer single-invoice billing for all its services.
Last year, WorldCom purchased MFS Communications, another long-distance player whose key assets lie in its national networking technology. Just prior to being acquired by WorldCom, MFS bought UUNet, one of the bigger providers of Internet access.
Speculation is that WorldCom will continue its acquisition streak, looking to possibly merge with one of the remaining partnerless regional Bell operating companies, such as Ameritech Corp. or GTE Corp.
Executives at WorldCom would not comment on possible future alliances.
Industry analysts also see WorldCom as ripe for acquisition by one of the larger long-distance carriers.
"This market is going to whittle itself down to three or four huge players, and everyone is in a strategic mad dash to make sure they're part of the game," said