France Telecom Targets U.S. in Branding Campaign

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NEW YORK - France Telecom has launched a global branding campaign with a special focus on the U.S. designed to present the French company as a global service provider able to meet all needs of a converging marketplace.


"Our target audience is telecom opinion leaders, and executives of telecoms, ISPs, IT decision and policy makers and the global financial community in general," a France Telecom source said.


The campaign is structured in three "waves" with banners placed on major Internet sites that tell describe what France Telecom can do for the Internet-telephony community.


Banners were placed on sites most frequented by the target audience the campaign was designed to reach - The Financial Times, The Economist, CNNfn, Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal and totaltele.com.


The first wave ran from Aug. 23 to the end of September. The second is underway until the end of November and the last part of the campaign, still undergoing "fine tuning," will run in December.


Each wave offered five stories about various aspects of France Telecom activities, such as Internet network solutions, innovation, broadcasting, investment and the company's role as venture capitalist.


"The point is branding," the source said. "We're not selling anything. We just want to make the point that we are more than just a phone company, that we do innovative things in a full range of teleservices including broadcasting."


The campaign is Web-based with no off-line activities beyond routine press releases. Nor was the company much interested in measuring response although "we do have click-through measurement."


Click-through rates provides information on what surfers were most interested in, and "we are doing some e-mail analysis and post campaign surveys to check the public perception, but we are most interested in having people see the banners, whether they click on them or not."


Most visitors to the specialized sites probably have some familiarity with what France Telecom does, "but we want them to understand that we are more than just a telecom."


Globecast, the company's broadcast division, provides uplink and downlink service from satellites, and digital programming for Bloomberg. It does video transmission to the rights holders of major league baseball across the US.


"We are present in the NHL, the NBA and in major TV networks." "Globecast transmits some components of all their broadcasts around the world."


France Telecom created a PCS mobile network in El Salvador in 75 days, beginning in late 1998. In the nine months since it was completed the company has signed up 50,000 subscribers.


The campaign is an integral part of France Telecom's effort to become a global player now that its alliance with Deutsche Telekom fractured earlier this year over the failed German attempt to buy Telecom Italia.


MCIWorldcom's bid to buy Sprint has put the future of Global One in doubt. That international carrier was a joint venture among Sprint, France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom designed to give the Germans and the French a foothold on the US market.


The French are betting on three "growth engines" to put the company in the forefront of international telecoms - wireless services, the Internet and international business.


In a speech in Geneva last month, France Telecom CEO Michel Bon noted that these three areas accounted for 6 percent of business in 1995, and will reach 30 percent this year and 40 percent in the year 2000.


Like the Germans, the French didn't have much choice but to expand internationally. The former French telephone monopoly now has market share of 50 percent, giving up the rest for private carriers that have sprung up in France after the EU liberalized telecoms in 1998.


Foreign revenue is beginning to rise sharply as a result of efforts to internationalize. Bon noted they accounted for 2 percent of revenues in 1995, 14 percent this year and should hit 20 percent in 2000.


While France Telecom considers Europe "our domestic market," it is not giving up on the US. "As far as the U.S. is concerned," Bon said, "we do not anticipate any difficulty in finding new commercial partners."


And that is clearly one aim of the banner campaign.
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