DM Will Play Large Part as Bell Atlantic Promotes Its New Long-Distance Service

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Bell Atlantic plans to leverage its infrastructure of customer service agents and incorporate the Internet, outbound telemarketing and direct mail in a massive advertising campaign that kicked off this week to support its new long-distance telephone service in New York.


The New York-based company, which offers local service in 13 states from Maine to Virginia, started the campaign with TV, radio and print advertising after the so-called Baby Bell won clearance from the Federal Communications Commission to begin marketing long-distance products in New York. The company expects to expand into New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts by year's end.


As the first local Bell telephone service provider to win approval to offer long-distance service within its local-service footprint, Bell Atlantic will be competing against AT&T, Sprint and MCI Worldcom in New York. Maura Breen, president/CEO of Bell Atlantic Communications Inc., said the company wants to sign up 1 million customers by the end of the year and to have 25 percent to 30 percent of the long-distance market within five years.


A large portion of customer acquisitions is expected to come through inbound calling generated by print and broadcast direct response advertising, Breen said. Arnold Communications, Boston, is handling the consumer portion of the campaign.


"Today, in New York, we have 3,000 sales and service representatives who will handle 20 million calls this year," she said. "Those sales and service representatives will sell long distance to our customers. These service representatives understand customer needs and requirements, and they talk to them every day, and they are thrilled that they can finally deliver on the promise of putting it all back together for the customer."


Bell Atlantic has added 300 phone agents in New York to handle the new service and will employ third-party vendors to conduct outbound telemarketing, Breen added. The company plans to launch a solo direct mail effort Jan. 26 that will include some targeted components, including pieces specifically for the Hispanic market. Spokesman Mark Marchand would not disclose how many pieces the company will mail in the first wave of the campaign, although he said it eventually would reach all 6.2 million households in the state.


The company will also include information about the long-distance service in its monthly billing statements, which reach most of the households in the state. Other promotional tie-ins are planned with various marketing partners, Breen said. In addition, Bell Atlantic is offering a special rate to consumers who sign up for its long-distance service through the Web at www.callbell.com, through a program called E-Values. "The Internet will be an important channel for us," Breen said, adding that the company will pass along the generated savings from using the site to its customers.


E-Values is one of three long-distance plans the company is offering, each of which have different rate structures. Other plans include a 10-cents-a-minute option with no monthly fees and a bundled offer, including local, long distance and other features, such as caller ID and call waiting.

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