Latest Serial Ad Campaign to Tell Ongoing Stories

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- Verizon has launched a series of TV spots that it is calling "situmercials," ads that tell an ongoing story in the manner of a classic TV sitcom.
Verizon's 'The Elliots' kickoff spot.

Conceptually, the spots are very much like the famous 1990 campaign by Nestle's Taster's Choice coffee and Procter & Gamble Co.'s 2002 Secret antiperspirant serial campaigns.

Fictitious family
The push broke last week with a 60-second spot featuring a fictitious family, the Elliotts, who use Verizon services in amusing situations throughout the home.

Other spots feature Latino and African-American families and will run on ethnic-targeted media. Additionally, family members from each group, who live in the same fictitious neighborhood, will show up in each other's spots.

In addition to the commercials running on national cable and some network prime-time TV, Verizon's advertising efforts include direct mail, as well as online ads delivering special offers, said Amy Rubenstin, Verizon's vice president of brand management. Spending on the campaign was undisclosed, but is expected to be in the range of $25 million for six months.

Multicultural agencies
McGarry Bowen, a New York-based independent ad agency, came up with the concept for the campaign. Publicis Groupe's Burrell Communications developed spots featuring the Davis family, and La Agencia de Orci & Asociados created spots for a family called the Sandovals. The Elliotts also happen to be a multicultural family; the wife is Hispanic and the father Caucasian.

Publicis' Zenith is the media-buying agency.

The launch spot will be followed by six spots touting different product features and benefits. To give the campaign a sitcom feel, each spot starts the same, uses the same music and ends with the Verizon tagline, "Make progress every day."

Ms. Rubenstin, described the effort as a "branded product awareness" campaign. She said the company sees itself "as much competing against traditional telecommunications clients such as AT&T and SBC as well as our cable colleagues as we get deeper into DSL."

Bundled telecom services
Telephone companies increasingly are bundling their services to consumers, offering packages with wireless, landline, long-distance and local calling and even satellite TV services usually at a discounted rate. The common marketing wisdom is that these bundled services prevent customers from switching to cheaper deals for individual telecom products, such as cell phone service.

"If you're selling multiple products and services, it's important to show them in people's lives and how they work in a real family," said Stewart Owen, chief strategic officer at McGarry Bowen.

Verizon Communications, with $68 billion in annual revenue, is part owner of Verizon Wireless. It also is a major publisher of telephone directories.

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