This third-quarter spot was supposed to help to answer a question AT&T had seeded with mysterious, "AT&T"-free ads in the lead-up to the Super Bowl and earlier in the game (see "Farmer" and "Grandfather," for example): What is mLife? After about 40 seconds of various navels, the 60-second spot by Ogilvy & Mather shows a woman giving birth, then cuts to the narrator proclaiming the promise of a life without wires before revealing that mLife is a division of AT&T Wireless.
"Details to follow," Ad Age reviewer Bob Garfield wrote then, "but point brilliantly made."
On Super Bowl Sunday and the following Monday, more people checked out mLife’s site than any other site advertised during the game, according to Jupiter Media Metrix.
"It's just not the usual advertising," Jeroen Bours, executive creative director at Ogilvy & Mather, told the Chicago Tribune after the game. "This was not the populist way of doing it. So when you do that for a populist brand, then it stands out a little bit."
"We're in a price-centric market," added Kim Whitehead, senior VP of marketing for AT&T Wireless. "We are very much in the scream-the-deal-of-the-day mode. We needed to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace. But we also knew that it needed a human face."
AT&T wound up attracting 650,000 customers in the first quarter of 2002, and Ogilvy & Mather and AT&T would return to the Super Bowl in 2003 ("Antiques Bandwagon," "Gilligan's Island"). But by June 2003, AT&T handed its corporate branding account to Goodby Silverstein & Partners, and by October 2003, the agency’s mysterious mLife campaign was replaced with a more obvious one: “Reach out to the wireless service America trusts.”
AT&T went on to establish a solid second place in the wireless wars, trailing only Verizon.
Director: Laurence Dunmore. Production company: RSA USA.
Art Director: Anil Bathwal. Agency Producer: Lynn Roer.
AGENCY: Ogilvy & Mather
QUARTER AIRED: Q3