Even Industry Bigwigs Will Be Waiting in Line for iPhone

Try as They Might, Execs Can't Get Their Hands on Must-Have Apple Device

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- From California to Cannes last week, the big question circulating in the industry was: When are you getting yours?

Here's how hard it is to get one of the coveted devices: Even AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was iPhoneless as late as March.

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The debut of the closely guarded iPhone, in scarce supply until the official launch June 29 at 6 p.m., has turned on its head the ad-industry norm of waving around the latest and greatest in gadgetry well before it's available to the general public.

So when the faithful queue up outside Apple and AT&T stores, the crowd primed to pony up $500 or more won't be the usual assortment of teens and harried moms in dogged pursuit of the next-generation video-game console. Instead, it'll include the business elite.

Favors and sacrifices
Colleen DeCourcy, chief experience officer at JWT, New York, who lives near Apple's Soho store, has been inundated with 25 to 30 calls from associates and friends asking, "Would you mind picking one up for me if you're down there already?" One inquiry circulating among the interactive workers sought a staffer willing to take one for the team and line up Friday morning for the product.

Maurice Coffey, a Procter & Gamble Co. marketing director who oversees the consumer-product giant's Home Made Simple relationship-marketing program, said he's prepared to show up early on the 29th, but "I'm not camping out. I'm too old for that." Mr. Coffey made the decision to switch carriers from Verizon to AT&T for the privilege of owning an iPhone. Though he's been very happy with his Verizon service, he said, "I'm an Apple guy."

It's been a true turnabout for West Coast producers, directors, agents and managers. "Usually it's us getting the clients free swag, like free Helios and Sidekicks," said one assistant at talent agency Endeavor. "But now it's the other way around. I heard from one friend of mine at a studio that a senior production executive was using his relationship with a high-profile actor to get himself an iPhone. What's weird is that the actor was actually like, 'Yeah, I think I know someone at Apple who can hook you up.'"

Scarcity within Cupertino
Here's how hard it is to get one: After the announcement of the iPhone at Macworld in January, handpicked Apple analysts were allowed to view the phone for 15 or 20 minutes. Only a handful of the most prominent reviewers are said to have iPhones in hand. Google's Eric Schmidt, an Apple board member, teased the audience by flashing one at a conference in Paris. Even AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was iPhone-less as late as March.

Executives at GSD&M, which count AT&T as a client, don't have one -- or so they say. Founder Roy Spence hasn't been sent one, according to spokeswoman Melany Mahaffey. "We will be standing on line Monday like everyone else," she said.

Or they might have to camp out. Geek guide Gizmodo has gone so far as to create a guide to where those camping out for an iPhone can find everything from food to restrooms.

The launch is so guarded that those selling the phone won't be trained on it until the last minute. Anticipating a crush, AT&T has hired more than 2,000 employees for its stores this summer.

Heart and mind
So is the iPod frenzy a genuine desire for the product or just a desire to be the first on your block with the latest toy? "It will be impossible to make a completely rational judgment until at least June 29," said NPD analyst Ross Rubin. "Let's just say those people will be buying on emotional appeal." Said Roger Entner, senior VP-communications sector, IAG Research: "Right now, the followers of the cult of Apple are buying it on faith."

It's "an amazing piece of technology," said Rich Silverstein, co-chairman of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, agency for AT&T competitor Sprint. "I will get an iPhone when Sprint has them."

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Written from bureau reports
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