AT&T Uses DRTV to Build Broadband Interest

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AT&T Broadband broke direct response television spots today for its digital cable, broadband online access and pay-per-view package services in the shadow of a Department of Commerce study that claims U.S. demand for broadband connections is slowing.


The 30-second spots by direct marketing agency Wunderman New York take advantage of AT&T Broadband's sponsorship of NASCAR drivers Matt Kenseth, Jeff Burton and Rusty Wallace. Both commercials urge consumers to call separate telephone numbers or visit attbroadband.com.


"They're trying to tap into the interest that people have with NASCAR and try to get them to sign up for both these promotions that are totally NASCAR-related," said Joel Sobelson, executive creative director at Wunderman New York.


A spot called "Garage" touts AT&T Digital Cable and AT&T Broadband Internet, the Denver firm's high-speed cable online access service. In the spot, Rusty Wallace's crew explores interests and hobbies beyond racing, finding things that appeal to them. Of course, they do this easily and quickly by using Digital Cable and Broadband Internet, which is delivered through a single cable connection.


The other spot is called "Friends." It focuses on a fan who has the NASCAR in Car in Demand pay-per-view package. The fan gets involved seeing the racing from the drivers' perspectives every week. He thinks he is in the car, racing with the drivers and imagining he has a personal relationship with them.


That experience is intended to highlight AT&T's NASCAR pay-per-view package with seven channels of NASCAR in-car content. Six channels are devoted to six select drivers, each with a camera in his car and live team audio. The seventh channel shows a real-time leader board and overall real-time racing statistics.


"When you get this package, it's like the next best thing to staying there with the driver," said Sebastian Lyner, account supervisor at Wunderman New York.


Both spots target the NASCAR audience, typically males ages 22 to 50 in the middle- to upper-income bracket. But "Garage" skews more toward entertainment enthusiasts.


The "Friends" spot runs through the rest of the NASCAR season in November. It will be revived in February for the entire 2003 NASCAR season ending that November. "Garage" runs through year-end.


The spots play on major cable and network channels running on AT&T Broadband. Cities of interest include Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Dallas among the 60 markets it reaches. AT&T Broadband claims 16 million subscribers nationwide.


The company will not pay for media. It gets a percentage of airtime for carrying the various TV channels and stations.


The spots will be supported by local direct mail and print advertisements handled directly by AT&T Broadband, according to Wunderman. Costs for the spots were not disclosed.


Rates for the digital cable and Internet access services vary by market. But the NASCAR half-season package is $99, and the end-of-season offering that is pushed is $35.


"So with the end-of-season price points being relatively inexpensive, you'll see quite a lift in the number of people signing up for this package, and certainly the next season when people have the opportunity to get the entire season," Lyner said.


The DRTV spots will have to work hard. According to a Commerce Department's Office of Technology Practice study of disparate analyst surveys, there needs to be more music, games and movies on the Internet to make broadband more popular.


The cost of speedy access is one stumbling block. High-speed connections typically cost $50 a month while dial-up connections are $20 a month or so.


Various technology-lobbying groups recommend more use of technology to offer connections with higher speed than is currently available. But the Commerce Department study also cited a need to boost demand instead of simply building more and speedier networks.


"Today's broadband will be tomorrow's traffic jam," the study said.


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