UPFRONT;PACBELL DOES A GONG SHOW

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The telecommunications category is typically "short on humor and long on bashing the competition," notes co-creative director Steve Simpson, "and if companies aren't nasty, they're solemn." Needless to say, neither is the case with Goodby Silverstein & Partners' new TV campaign for Pacific Bell, a series of spots that feature the wry, and often bizarre, antics of the company's rookie spokesperson, actor Chris Eigeman.

Simpson and creative director Jeff Goodby initially worried the idea wouldn't meet the client's marketing demands, but Goodby says he "wanted to bring arcane telecommunications products down to earth," and explains that casting "Barcelona" star Eigman was an opportunity "to be intelligent yet goofy in a way that wasn't demanding." Simpson adds that it also served to distinguish Pacific Bell from AT&T, known for its futuristic technologies hype, and Sprint, which is synonymous with the faux-funny Candace Bergen, while also highlighting a network of products particularly useful to consumers and small businesses.

In all of the commercials the conservatively-dressed Eigman answers the campaign's tagline, "The Pacific Bell Network;How will you use it?" with what Simpson describes as a "product demonstration." In one spot, he meets Charles, a tailor who designs custom-made trousers for dogs, including a hideous pair of chartreuse shorts modeled by a dachshund. The product in this case is a Centrex phone system that will allow Charles to add phone lines should his business take off.

In another spot, Eigeman strolls through an office with a basket, taking up a collection to install an ISDN phone system in the home office of Hugh Derrick, the company's most unpopular employee. And in a third commercial, Eigeman blocks off hundreds of cars on the L.A. freeway and commands people to turn their cars around and telecommute from home.

The campaign was directed by Jeff Lovinger of Lovinger Cohn in NEw York, and posted at San Francisco's Phoenix Editorial. Other agency credits to co-CD Steve

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