AT&T brand revamp gets first support in new ads

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AT&T has learned that all the money in the world can't buy a unified brand.

After pumping an estimated $1 billion-plus into advertising last year, AT&T Corp. is revamping its brand strategy under Marilyn Laurie, who has been named exec VP-brand strategy and marketing communications.

Toward that end, the telecommunications behemoth today breaks a long-awaited and much-delayed campaign from Y&R Advertising, New York. Y&R last August beat out other AT&T roster agencies for the $100 million-plus account.


While the advertising was originally scheduled for last September and slated as a corporate campaign, the focus shifted and took on a more holistic importance under new President John Walter.

"He wants to go to market as one company," said Ms. Laurie, who moves to her new AT&T post from exec VP-public relations. "Fragmentation has not been helpful to the trust between the brand and its customers."

The campaign consists of four 60-second spots invoking poignant images of family, love, hope and trust as facilitated by AT&T's communication technologies.

The most elaborate--and expensive--of the spots features vignettes of ordinary people and celebrities, including Christopher Reeve and NBA coach Pat Riley, all enjoying special moments in their lives thanks to various AT&T products.

"Our objective is to make this the world's greatest brand," said Stephen Graham, VP-marketing communications.


The brand values portrayed in the new spots will become central to all AT&T ads in the future, Ms. Laurie said, whether produced by Y&R or roster shops McCann-Erickson Worldwide and Foote, Cone & Belding.

"Fundamentally this is a great move for AT&T," said Charlie Taney, president of FCB's New York office, which is AT&T's lead media planning agency and creative shop for the marketer's new products and services. "Focusing on the AT&T brand and what it means to customers is a move in the right direction."

The ad budget for AT&T, as well as other telecommunications marketers, is expected to almost double in size by yearend. The convergence of long-distance, local, wireless and Internet services offered by these companies is expected to create a new industry estimated at $500 billion.

"Product and service ads will meld seamlessly into the brand campaign," Ms. Laurie said. "This is about integration, not corporate umbrellas."

All marketing activities for the company's dozens of divisions and business lines will now be centered under Ms. Laurie. Second-in-command Daniel Clark, director of the brand strategy group, will be charged with finding brand values usable in all marketing efforts.

Copyright February 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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