New Goodby Silverstein Work Resurrects 'Reach Out' Theme

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- AT&T Wireless is scaling back its 20-month-old mLife campaign for a new advertising effort that
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echoes its vintage "Reach out and touch someone" theme.

The new integrated campaign, with spending estimated at $125 million, breaks Oct. 12 and consists of TV, print, outdoor and retail ads that carry the tagline "Reach out on the wireless service America trusts."

Three new spots
Three new commercials kick off the campaign. One shows a businessman going from taxicab to hotel room to the airport. As he waits at a gate, he starts talking with a little girl sitting next to him. When the girl disappears, viewers realize he was speaking with his daughter on the phone. In another spot, a young couple is seen going to work after having a fight. During the woman's business meeting, the man bursts through the door, holding a sign that says "I'm a jerk. I'm sorry." She types in the words "Me too" on her phone.

Two additional spots with a more youthful focus are slated to follow this year, said Mike Sievert, chief marketing officer at AT&T Wireless.

The "Reach out" idea is the one which cinched the assignment for Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, which won the wireless company's corporate branding account following a shootout with the incumbent, WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather, New York.

The ambiguous mLife
Ogilvy created the mLife campaign, which carried the tagline "Your mobile life made better" for the 2002 Super Bowl. MLife, however, was dubbed "ambiguous" and now will continue in a limited capacity behind specific products such as mLife local, national and digital plans. The mLife tagline will be replaced by "Reach out on the wireless service America trusts" throughout AT&T Wireless' $700 million marketing efforts.

"Our intent [with mLife] was to point to AT&T Wireless as a leader in the next generation of wireless" and the campaign achieved that goal, Mr. Sievert said. The new campaign will help AT&T Wireless "stand apart from the glib giveaways and promotions" expected in the wireless marketplace as federal rules go into effect Nov. 24 allowing consumers to switch services more conveniently by taking their number with them.

The campaign will run on prime-time TV programming, from sporting events such as Monday Night Football and Fox's broadcast of the World Series to shows such as West Wing and ER. A cable buy also is planned. Print will run in magazines as well as 400 newspapers.

Created in 1979
AT&T launched "Reach out and touch someone," created by N.W. Ayer in 1979. The campaign ended in the mid-1980s. AT&T Wireless, once an AT&T Corp. unit, was spun-off in July 2001. AT&T Wireless signed a separate deal with AT&T to borrow the old tagline.

"'Reach out' was a beautiful line waiting to be taken," said Rich Silverstein, co-chairman of Goodby Silverstein. "It was one of the great lines of advertising history and we just contemporized it."

AT&T Wireless ranks third in market share, according to the New England Consulting Group, Westport, Conn. Verizon leads with 22%, followed by Cingular with 16% and AT&T just after with 15%. Trailing the category are Sprint PCS with 12% and Nextel and T-Mobile, each with 7%.

An emotional position
AT&T Wireless becomes one of the first of the cellular giants to stake out an overtly emotional theme. Others have focused their positioning on attributes such as service quality (Verizon Wireless) and value (T-Mobile.)

AT&T Wireless' move to leverage the "warm and fuzzy characteristics" of the AT&T brand is "smart," said telecom industry analyst Jeff Kagan. "It's also a good move to start focusing on the emotional connections, selling moments instead of minutes, and focusing on the customer's experience," he said. "If they can pull it off, and create that kind of emotional tie with the customer, it will go a long way to differentiate them from the competition in an industry that is becoming more and more [about] commodities."

Cingular, for one, plans to bring some of that innovation to the party with a product allowing a wireless phone to connect with a land line. Under the Fast Forward service, a wireless phone is placed in a cradle next to a land line phone, enabling the wireless calls to go through the land line headset to avoid using precious wireless minutes.

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