MCI Takes 'Business as Usual' Approach

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NEW YORK ( -- WorldCom's filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week has sent telecom rivals scrambling to mop up any customer churn they can get.

For starters, struggling AT&T Corp. bought full-page ads in major newspapers touting itself as a trusted communications brand with loyal employees. The ads, created by WPP Group's Y&R Advertising, New York, urged consumer and business customers to choose AT&T service. AT&T's Business and Consumer divisions compete directly with WorldCom and the company's MCI consumer brand.

Open letter
WorldCom ran ads in the style of an "open letter" this week in major U.S. dailies to tell investors, consumers and business customers that its bankruptcy filing was the only way for it to preserve jobs and continue serving customers. The ad was signed by WorldCom's president-CEO, John Sidgmore. Havas' Euro RSCG MVBMS, New York, handles the telecom's advertising.

The MCI, meanwhile, continues to run TV ads by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Deutsch, New York, for the Neighborhood, its consumer calling proposition.

'Business as usual'
"Everything is business as usual on the MCI side," an MCI spokewoman said. She declined to discuss whether creative in the near-term would seek to reassure consumers.

BellSouth Corp. took advantage of WorldCom's woes to break a series of new TV ads by Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York, in nine states to reassure customers of its staying power.

Ailing telecom providers are struggling against the sharp increase in e-mail and wireless usage while they they try to articulate consumer benefits.

But one telecom is not daunted by the meltdown: Virgin Group's Virgin Mobile USA on Wednesday launched its wireless service targeted to Generation Y in New York's Time Square. Virgin has partnered with Viacom's MTV, which will provide wireless content.

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