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BellSouth Corp., traditionally one of the most genteel of the Baby Bells, is putting its dukes up to prepare for a competitive onslaught in the deregulated telecommunications arena.

The company is conducting a review for its estimated $100 million-plus media buying account, which had been scattered across a number of its agencies.


Ten agencies are participating, including BellSouth shops Long Haymes Carr, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Omnicom's Creative Media, New York; and Tucker Wayne & Co., Atlanta. Although BBDO South had handled most of the media buying, the agency is not participating because of its increased involvement with AT&T Corp., and will eventually resign the account.

The winner will be named later this summer and will handle buying for all of the company's divisions, including BellSouth Mobility and BellSouth Personal Communications.

BellSouth's spending on its telephone services alone last year jumped 86% to about $58 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

"BellSouth is looking for more power and force when making buys," said William Pate, who just joined as VP-advertising, from director of advertising at MCI Communications Corp.

BellSouth is also beefing up its brand name. Last August, the company named Merkley Newman Harty, New York, as its agency of record, after having been with Tucker for decades. Tucker still handles the Yellow Pages, Mobility and corporate accounts, while Long handles personal communications services.


"BellSouth is a conservative Southern company, but they realize they need to evolve," said Jeffrey Kagan of consultancy Telecommunications Associates. "Now is the critical time for new thinking."

BellSouth plans to concentrate on its Southern heritage as it expands nationally and internationally with cellular, cable, long distance and personal communica-tions services.

"They obviously brought Pate in to shake things up a bit," said Mr. Kagan. "The long-distance companies have been competing for years, and now it's time for the Bells to step into the ring."


Although BellSouth very politely positions itself as the "communications company of the South," its advertising will become more aggressive to match that of its sister Bells.

"BellSouth will do what has to be done to remain a major player," said Anthony Brescia, executive group director on BellSouth's account at Merkley.

"The marketing dynamic needs to be taken to a new level when players are trying to aggressively take shares from each other," said Mr. Pate.

"MCI taught me how to reach those new levels and now we have that in our arsenal," he added. "There's an interesting dichotomy going on here, kind of like the student competing against the teacher. It'll be exciting."

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