Employee's Words Provide Touching Central Theme

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NEW YORK ( -- A Verizon employee who told superiors "all I try to do is just make progress" each day has provided the
A toddler makes progress in the task of walking in Verizon's 'Anthem.'
poignant central theme of the communication giant's first corporate ad campaign.

The initial wave of the massive multimedia effort -- the first corporate brand advertising for Verizon since it was formed by the merger of GTE and Bell Atlantic in June 2000 -- kicks off Sunday.

The opening ad, a 60-second spot called "Anthem," asks "Do you have to make history to make progress?" as it plays through multiple images of an amputee climbing a rope with only his arms, a waitress in a 24-hour diner, and window washers, bakers and other everyday people doing their jobs. "What about someone who does their job better than they have to, isn't that noteworthy?," the voice-over asks.

'Progress every day'
The new corporate tagline, which appears as the closing image shows a smiling toddler taking halting steps, asks, "Can you make progress every day?"

"When we were developing the idea," said Jody Bilney, Verizon's senior vice president of brand management

'Anthem' also features an amputee making progress climbing a rope.
and marketing communications, "we took it to our employees, and interestingly enough, the specific word 'progress' was spoken by an employee, a service rep from the consumer line of business. 'All I try to do is just make progress' every day. There was something very real about that."

The effort, from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Lowe, New York, ties the communication service provider's core brand platform to the simple idea of everyday progress.

"There is a very specific definition of progress that we think will reasonate most with our customers -- that it is a continuous journey, a continuous effort, that it's not just the big things, it's about the small steps we take forward," Ms. Bilney said.

Feeling good
Independent telecom industry analyst Jeff Kagan said the campaign "is about helping people feel good about themselves and what they do, and that Verizon is there to help them do that."

Mr. Kagan said he thinks the push is a step in the right direction. "In the future, we're going to be competing not on products or price but on brand ... the

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emotional connection with the brand [is important.]"

Another major development in the campaign is the absence of the vocal resonance of actor James Earl Jones. "Verizon is speaking for itself," Ms. Bilney said. "It's about the customers and their progress." She noted that Mr. Jones will continue to do voice-overs in forthcoming company product and service ads.

The Verizon brand campaign will roll out on a staggered basis on TV (mostly in prime-time network and cable programming), online, radio, outdoor and print, and will address products and services from a consumer and business perspective. There are at least a dozen TV spots planned.

DSL service and 'progress'
For example, a TV spot about high speed digital subscriber line service will show how DSL enables progress in a consumer household. Verizon's wireless, enterprise, SuperPages, consumer and emerging services products will all be addressed.

Verizon Wireless' product advertising is led by Interpublic's Bozell, New York. Ms. Bilney emphasized that Wireless helped develop the new master brand strategy with Lowe, bit it will continue to work with Bozell building awareness for its own network and products. She said Bozell's current "Test Man" campaign idea meshes with the new corporate push around progress.

Multicultural efforts
Burrell Communications, Chicago, handles African-American creative; La Agencia De Orsi & Associates, Los Angeles, is implementing the Hispanic version of the campaign. Print executions will appear in six Asian-language newspapers.

Verizon also plans to target the youth segment -- those in their late teens through mid-20s "who aren't necessarily the bill payers" but who will be making buying decisions in the future, Ms. Bilney said.

Verizon Communications spent $842 million in the U.S. in measured media in 2001, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. At least a third of that figure is estimated to have gone toward advertising and marketing activities supporting the company's Verizon Wireless division.

Wireless plans a initial public offering some time this year. Originally, Wireless planned to do the IPO last year, but weak financial markets coupled by the slowing economy put the plan on hold.

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