AT&T was No. 1 among the Big Three phone companies of the mid-90s, ahead of No. 2 MCI and No. 3 Sprint, but the ad war was fierce and expensive. Seeking to reverse years of customer declines, AT&T in 1993 brought the president of its booming Business Communications Services Group, Joseph Nacchio, to its consumer division, where he reshuffled agency responsibilities, making FCB/Leber Katz Partners the lead consumer agency that November, and orchestrated the “True” campaign.
In this emotional Super Bowl XVIII ad, AT&T plugs the “True” theme into a message about its variety of long-distance calling products, such as the True Rewards loyalty program offering frequent-flier points and True Voice, a clarity product previously promoted with TV commercials starring Whitney Houston.
AT&T's internal records later showed that 1 million customers signed up in 1994, including thousands previously wooed away by the discounts and innovative marketing and advertising efforts of MCI and Sprint. Competitors would complain that AT&T bought its market share gains with an incessant barrage of TV and print advertising as well as direct mail offering as much as $75 to customers who switch back to AT&T.
The company would continue to use the Super Bowl over the years while the telecom industry changed rapidly, returning in 1997 with a spot promoting its long distance rates ("Bowling Alley"), for example, in 1998 with an ad playing on the brand-new digital rumor mill ("Bobby Templeton"), in 1999 for a high-energy anthem ("This Is") and in 2002 to promote its mlife mobile network (a series of teasers and then the reveal in "Belly Buttons"). Its rivals' big-game ads include MCI's "Emoticons" and "Space Babies" in 1997 and Sprint's "A New World" in 1990 and "Why Go Back" in 1992.
FCB/Leber Katz Partners also created Rayovac's spot for rechargeable batters in the same Super Bowl ("Renewal").
AGENCY: FCB/Leber Katz Partners
QUARTER AIRED: Q1