Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Sunday, March 9, 2008


The first campaign for Ameritech from its new advertising agency, Ammirati Lintas Puris of New York, was launched on October 6, 1997, in an attempt to move customers from simply recognizing the brand to preferring it over other telecommunications companies. The following year’s campaign took an even more aggressive stance, with the goal of creating ‘‘active preference’’ in consumers—in other words, that they not only prefer the Ameritech brand but actually switch to it from other brands or expand their existing Ameritech services. The company provided firepower for such an ambitious goal. In an article by Sally Beatty in the Wall Street Journal, Richard Notebaert, CEO of Ameritech, was quoted as saying, ‘‘We have never had a product test this good.’’ He was referring to the Privacy Manager system, a service that worked in conjunction with Caller ID, whereby Ameritech intercepted calls from unidentified callers and requested that they identify themselves. In test runs 7 out of 10 calls did not make it through this first screening process and ring through to the customers, and as with collect calls, those that did offered customers the option of accepting or rejecting the calls depending on the callers’ recorded identification of themselves. With the rise in unsolicited telemarketing calls flooding into homes, Privacy Manager ‘‘satisfied a need that consumers have been pleading to have resolved,’’ said Notebaert.
The 1997 campaign personalized Ameritech by presenting a number of its employees as profiled by their own relatives—a wife, a nephew, and a father—who discussed the Ameritech workers’ commitment to providing outstanding service to customers. The 1998 campaign further personalized Ameritech’s services by presenting vignettes of inviolable family moments, such as reading a story to the kids at bedtime and shampooing their hair at bath time. Beneath these serene scenes Ammirati superimposed text about the Privacy Manager: ‘‘Would you interrupt this moment for an aluminum siding deal? Introducing Privacy Manager, a new service from Ameritech. It stops unwanted, unidentified calls before your phone even rings. Interested? For availability in your area, call 1-800-PRIVACY.’’ The understated simplicity of the spots won critical praise, and the launch of the Privacy Manager system was a business success.

In July 1997 Ameritech awarded the creative portion of its $100 million advertising account to Ammirati Puris Lintas, which beat out contender BBDO of New York, to end a four-month account review. The move consolidated Ameritech’s corporate, small business, and residential advertising, which had been split between Fallon McElligott of Minneapolis, DDB Needham of Chicago, and Leo Burnett of Chicago. According to Joan Walker, Ameritech’s senior vice president of corporate communications, as cited in an Adweek article by Alison Fahey, Ammirati won the account on the strength of its ‘‘strategic and creative insights.’’ Ammirati creative director Tom Nelson explained, ‘‘Everybody came together and the creative department came through. Usually, we have great strategy and [fine tune] the creative later. This time it was a total lock.’’ In order to service the account, Ammirati established an office in Chicago, where Ameritech was headquartered.
Ammirati revamped Ameritech’s existing tag line—dating back to 1993 and revised in 1995 to become ‘‘Your Link to Better Communication’’—changing it to read ‘‘In a World of Technology, People Make the Difference.’’ The 1997 advertising campaign focused on three Ameritech people: repairman Ted, customer service representative Angela, and emergency relief worker Jack. But instead of portraying them telling their own stories, Ammirati shifted the focus to family members speaking about their dedication. This displacement maintained the humility of the workers while contributing to the atmosphere of the campaign, which sought to highlight Ameritech as a company that fostered lasting familial relationships with its customers.
According to Sean Horgan, writing in the
Indianapolis Star, the strategy arose from in-depth research suggesting that ‘‘consumers always expect technological expertise and competitive prices, but make their final decisions based on which company is the most attentive to their needs.’’ Ameritech thus sought to present itself as user-friendly and responsive to customers’ needs. Lest these claims ring false, the company backed up its statements by spending as much as $1 billion over three years on substantive changes that included consolidated billing, employee and customer service training, and expanded products and services for small businesses. Above all, Ameritech sought to present its employees as attentive to the paramount importance of the telephone in modern life. ‘‘When you’re doing telecommunications, you’re doing something that makes a difference to the customer. The phone can be a lifeline. That makes our employees feel very important,’’ said Karen Sheriff, Ameritech’s director of corporate marketing and branding, in an Advertising Age article by Beth Snyder.
By the time Ameritech hired Ammirati, the telecommunications corporation had achieved its goal of capturing consumer awareness, increasing brand recognition in its region from 8 percent in 1994 to 95 percent in 1997, or near complete saturation. Ameritech’s brand message thus had to become more sophisticated, moving consumers from merely recognizing the brand to preferring it over competitors. ‘‘People are looking beyond technology for people who can help them,’’ said Ameritech’s Walker in an Adweek article by Trevor Jensen. Hence the ‘‘people-centered’’ campaign of 1997.
Ameritech did not, however, abandon technological innovation as a means of appealing to consumers and of distinguishing itself from competitors. At the time the hot telecommunications technology was Caller ID, which displayed the name and telephone number of the incoming caller. As of September 1997, 19 percent of households in the United States had Caller ID, whereas a year later some 31 percent of the country’s households were using it. The Caller ID feature was not exclusive to Ameritech, however, and so the technology did not offer a clear point of distinction between Ameritech and the competition. Ameritech shrewdly extended the Caller ID concept into a more proactive system, gaining exclusivity with Privacy Manager. Ameritech applied for two patents to maintain the exclusivity and, in fact, intended to license the service to other telecommunications companies.

Because the best means for growth for each company would be to carve into the other’s regional strongholds, Bell Atlantic, which had merged with Nynex Corp., represented Ameritech’s major competitor. According to Competitive Media Reporting, Bell Atlantic spent $160 million on advertising in 1996, compared to Ameritech’s $73 million. Both companies launched new advertising campaigns in 1997. Whereas Ameritech’s campaign leveraged family values and used fairly traditional techniques, Bell Atlantic attempted a more innovative strategy by riding the popular wave of animated advertising. Bell Atlantic did not abandon the past, however, as it retained the deep, resonating sound of James Earl Jones for its voice-overs. In addition, it used characters from Maurice Sendak’s popular children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, the first time Sendak had licensed the characters since his creation of them in 1963.
Bell Atlantic’s ad agency—the Lord Group of New York—applied current advertising strategies to give its campaign a fully contemporary feel. The campaign commenced with unidentified teaser ads, a contemporary advertising technique for creating interest in a campaign by capturing consumers’ attention and then further peaking their interest by leaving the identity of the advertiser a mystery. The teaser campaign started with outdoor advertising, including the 300-foot billboard adjacent to Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, a hub of commuter traffic and hence a highly visible site. Fifteen-second commercials, which began running on October 13, 1997, followed up on the outdoor effort by depicting the approaching footfalls of a Sendak cartoon monster, who burst through a white television screen containing the message ‘‘Wild things are happening.’’ The monster then pulled down a new screen containing the Bell Atlantic logo, like a history teacher pulling down a political map.
Two weeks later, on October 27, 1997, 30- and 60-second spots broke, accompanied by magazine and newspaper spreads, fully unveiling the campaign by extending the tag line to read, ‘‘Wild things are happening. Bell Atlantic. We’ll see you there.’’ The ads supported the theme by portraying the Sendak monsters guiding children through mazelike jungles. Snyder pointed out in her Advertising Age article that, according to Ray Smith, Bell Atlantic’s CEO, the campaign, which continued into 1998, was intended to ‘‘establish Bell Atlantic as the friendly, gentle giant leading customers through the communications jungle.’’

Numerous commentators pointed out the irony of Ameritech offering its Privacy Manager system to residential customers to block out unsolicited telemarketing calls from even ringing into the home. After all, Ameritech’s business included an arm devoted to telemarketing. Bob Garfield, the most acerbic of critics, commented in his Advertising Age review that ‘‘Ameritech protecting you from telemarketers is like R.J. Reynolds selling nicotine gum.’’ Commentators who picked up on this irony were quick to add, however, that Ameritech’s potential conflict of interest did not negate the benefits of the Privacy Manager system for consumers. Ameritech responded that it was simply answering consumer needs. ‘‘We have a variety of customers, some of whom have asked us for an intelligent way to manage calls into their home,’’ said Ameritech representative Dave Onak in a 1998 Adweek article. ‘‘So we really see no irony in this.’’ Furthermore, Ameritech maintained that ‘‘outbound’’ telemarketing, or calls into the home, represented a mere fraction of its overall business.

Ammirati hired veteran director Bob Giraldi of bicoastal Giraldi Suarez Productions—known for what Advertising Age critic Bob Garfield called ‘‘bombastic ’80s-era music videos’’ —to direct a series of five spots that introduced consumers to the Privacy Manager system. Giraldi responded with commercials that went counter to his stereotype, employing understatement instead of pushing the product with a hard sell. Giraldi easily could have resorted to presenting the problem, probably to great comic or shocking effect, by depicting the most heinous of privacy invasions by telemarketers. Instead, Giraldi and the Ammirati team—which included creative directors Jon Moore and Tim Kane, art director Sharon Dershin, copywriter Jody Finver, and producer Mary Ann Marino—chose to focus on the solution, depicting the kinds of familial and intimate scenes that would not be interrupted by unwanted telemarketing calls in those households that employed Privacy Manager. ‘‘Rubber Ducky,’’ one of the most memorable and effective of the spots, portrayed a father shampooing his son, who sat in a bathtub singing his ABCs. Giraldi positioned the camera to view the scene from the next room, with the bathroom door framing the shot, as if to respect the sacred space of this communal moment between father and son. Similarly, in the spot entitled ‘‘Snooze,’’ he angled the camera from the foot of the bed so that the audience focused on the father’s feet sandwiched between the two sets of his daughters’ feet. Even the book, which the father held open to their nighttime story, hid their faces, maintaining privacy. No voice-over interrupted the scenes. Instead, information about Privacy Manager scrolled unobtrusively across the bottom of the screen, further supporting the sense of respect for personal space.
The advertisers were so confident of the desirability of the Privacy Manager system that they limited their sales pitch to one word: ‘‘Interested?’’ ‘‘Hell yes, I’m interested,’’ Garfield responded in his review of the ads. Ameritech had succeeded in tapping into a nearly universal revulsion to telemarketers. ‘‘People don’t like telemarketers,’’ explained Fred Voit, consumer communications analyst with the Boston-based market research firm Yankee Group. While Voit stopped short of predicting the demise of telemarketing, as not all consumers annoyed by telemarketers would pay the extra monthly charges for Privacy Manager on top of the charges for the necessary Caller ID, he did, nevertheless, expect there to be a demand for the service.

Garfield, the tough ad critic for Advertising Age, gave the Ameritech Privacy Manager campaign a rating of 3 ½ out of a possible 4 stars. He praised the marketing technique behind the five commercials in the campaign, which ‘‘dramatize the product benefits magnificently.’’ He complimented director Giraldi for ‘‘turn[ing] out cinematic vignettes of surpassing tenderness.’’ Describing the atmosphere of the spots, Garfield explained that the ‘‘mood, the moments are sublime.’’ The Advertising Women of New York joined Garfield in praising the campaign by giving Giraldi a 1999 Addy Award in the category of best direction for his work on the campaign.
It was interesting that even the contingent that stood to lose the most from the innovation applauded it. The American Telemarketing Association released a press statement maintaining that the organization had ‘‘always supported consumer choice in receiving information on goods and services over the phone.’’ The advent of the Privacy Manager sent the message to telemarketers that they needed to modify their strategies, since households were taking measures to protect themselves from existing telemarketing techniques. ‘‘I truly believe we’re at the saturation level,’’ commented telemarketing consultant Rudy Oetting of Oetting & Co. of New York. He saw the potential benefit of the Privacy Manager system to the telemarketing field in forcing it to improve techniques of targeting and reaching consumers who were truly interested in the services or products offered. Services such as Privacy Manager ‘‘will cause marketers who use the telephone channel to become more selective and creative in their approach so that people who do receive calls will be interested in what they’re being called about,’’ stated Oetting in Beatty’s Wall Street Journal article.

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