Dial M For Monster Sendak's Wild Things Take Over Bell Ads

Posted: October 09, 1997

Trying to figure out what kind of telephone services to buy and where to buy them is like walking through a jungle filled with the monsters who populate Maurice Sendak's famous children's story, ``Where the Wild Things Are.''

So said Bell Atlantic chairman and CEO Raymond Smith, who yesterday announced that Bell Atlantic is featuring Sendak's monstrous wild things in its new advertising campaign.

The multimedia campaign was launched on billboards yesterday. Television ads, which also feature the voice of Bell Atlantic, actor James Earl Jones, will begin Monday and continue through 1998.

The ads will pitch the idea that Bell Atlantic is just the ``caring, gentle giant'' consumers need to lead them through the ``wild world of telecommunications.''

``Telecommunications companies appear so big, so cold, so inaccessible,'' said Bruce Gordon, who heads Bell Atlantic's retail services group. ``We want to say that one company is working to change that. Bell Atlantic will give you personalized service to help you find your way.''

The campaign is also designed to familiarize residents of New York and New England, the area formerly served by Nynex, with the Bell Atlantic name. Bell Atlantic and Nynex merged in August to form a company second in size only to AT&T.

At that time, it was announced that the merged firm's headquarters will be in New York, while its name will be the one known in Philadelphia.

Gordon conceded that it will take more than that name and an ad campaign to win consumer loyalty - especially in the former Nynex area.

Complaints are still being posted on an Internet site called

nynex.sucks (www.nynexsucks

.com). The originators of the site claim Nynex took so long to provide phone service to their fledgling business, they had to use an outside phone booth for four weeks.

``We know we have to back up the implied promises of the ads,'' Gordon said. ``And we have plans to do that. We are adding a large number of people and service packages.''

Smith said the decision to drop the Nynex name was unrelated to ``bad publicity.'' Bell Atlantic was chosen, he said, because it is the better known name of the two.

Bell Atlantic intends to compete with AT&T and MCI to provide long-distance service, Smith said, and to do that it needs ``a singular, powerful brand.''

Surveys show, Smith said, that consumers want local and long distance back together, that they are tired of price wars and rival companies taking shots at each other.

According to Gordon, this is the first time Sendak has allowed his ``wild things'' to be used for a commercial purpose. And he has even agreed to do some of the artwork for the campaign, he said.

That could indicate a vote of confidence in the merger, since Sendak lives in Connecticut and therefore has been a Nynex customer.

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