GSD&M Idea City Reclaims Some AT&T Business

Marketer Hands Creative Duties for Directory Assistance to Omnicom Shop

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- AT&T, unseated by Google from its traditional hold on the information-services business, today announced it has awarded creative duties for two of its divisions to GSD&M's Idea City.

AT&T awarded the AT&T 411 and 1-800-Yellowpages accounts, which were previously handled in-house. The win is a boost for the Austin, Texas, agency, which last year lost lead creative duties as well as media buying for the telecom's $3 billion ad account, resulting in serious staff cuts.

Idea City continues to work on AT&T's consumer-products direct-TV business, while Omnicom Group sibling BBDO handles creative for the brand as well as for wireless.

Ad spending
Spending on the new business was undisclosed, but for all AT&T Yellow Pages advertising last year, AT&T spent $41.1 million in 2006 and $29 million for the first nine months of 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence. AT&T declined comment on spending. Future spending, however, will jump to as much as $100 million, insisted two executives familiar with the situation.

Two new campaigns will work to build AT&T's brand awareness and traffic. The company's over-arching "Your World, Delivered" tagline will remain.

While AT&T invented dialing 411 directory assistance for telephone numbers, Wendy Clark, senior VP-Advertising for AT&T, said in a release that consumers now have many ways to obtain similar information. They include not just Google from a PC and mobile phone, but a number of new companies such as 4Info and 1-800-free411 that offer ad-supported directory assistance free to consumers.

AT&T has begun to revamp its systems to make them more competitive with other services.

Pay-per-call technology
In November, AT&T purchased Ingenio, a San Francisco-based company that is a leading provider of pay-per-call technology, an ad platform that allows business to publish a unique phone number in advertising. When a consumer calls the number, it rings at the business but the company knows which magazine, TV or internet ad actually generated the response. Ad fees are based on the volume of leads.

"AT&T has become pretty aggressive" in trying to win back information customers, said Matt Booth, senior VP, Kelsey Group. Despite AT&T's optimistic projection of ad spending to push the services, the amount of money those services generate for the telecom's bottom line might be paltry. Mr. Booth estimates the U.S. market for ad-sponsored directory assistance to be $14 million in 2007, but will grow to $462 million in 2012. He said 60% of ad-sponsored directory assistance calls come from wireless phones, while only 40% are from landlines. Kelsey Group estimates that by 2012, the shift to wireless will be significant, to 80% of the calls, with only 20% made from landline phones.
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