Alcatel to launch big U.S. campaign

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French telecom equipment manufacturer Alcatel today breaks its most extensive U.S. ad campaign to date in a bid to grab market share from beseiged rivals Lucent Technologies and Nortel Networks.

The campaign, estimated at $30 million to $40 million, comes as an overbuilt telecom equipment market grapples with slumping demand. Alcatel's stock, along with the shares of its chief competitors, has hovered near its 52-week low. Alcatel shares closed at $35.73 March 15.

The campaign by Havas Advertising's Arnold Worldwide, Boston, features snippets of famous speeches partially delivered to absent audiences and points out the powerful messages would have been lost had no one heard them. The symbolism is intended to show how Alcatel can help businesses reach their customers.

Brad Burns, senior VP-communications for Alcatel in the Americas, said the work is designed to continue boosting awareness with customers, mostly senior managers at companies such as Verizon Communications, AT&T Corp., and SBC Communications, but it also targets the Wall Street community and potential employees.

"Alcatel is a household name in Europe, but clearly that's not the case in the U.S.," said Mr. Burns from the company's U.S. headquarters in Plano, Texas. Alcatel is the world's sixth-largest communications equipment supplier.

The "Architects of an Internet World" tag was devised by Arnold's sibling shop in Paris, Devarrieux Villaret and appeared in an introductory campaign last year. The first spot of the new campaign shows Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his "I have a dream" speech from the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Instead of a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd, the Mall is empty.

Alcatel's global tagline, introduced in 2000, ties the company to the fast-paced Internet world much in the way Sun Microsystems' former "We're the [dot] in [dot-com]" tagline did. With the dot-com death watch list growing, some industry pundits wonder if the association will hold up. Alcatel's Mr. Burns says it will, "The Internet is here to stay, and those who embrace it and are committed to it in the long term are going to win ... It [the tagline] gives us an amazing amount of breadth to work with in the coming years."

The subject of a second spot has not been finalized. Ads will run through June, with more executions to come, said Jim McGinn, senior VP-group account director at Arnold. He said the campaign would also be deployed globally.

Mr. Burns and Mr. McGinn declined to disclose Alcatel's ad budget, but they said it has not been revised despite concerns about the slowing U.S. economy. Mr. Burns said Alcatel's business in Europe makes up half of the company's revenue and therefore, he maintains, the Paris-based company has a cushion that its U.S.-based competitors lack. From January through December of 2000, Alcatel spent $34 million in measured media in the U.S. last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Contributing: Tobi Elkin

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