Achieving cult-like status, the four Sales Guys, representing AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, are off to the North Pole. The first ad, "Little Helper," in the new campaign series features Santa Claus, who tells the story of his other little helper, Chad. Santa and Chad talk about who should receive Alltel phones for the holidays ... and it's not the Sales Guys.
The TV spots are scheduled to air on VH1, ABC Family, Bravo and CMT. The holiday campaign developed by Campbell-Ewald Detroit works with Claymation spots created by Bent Image Lab, a Portland, Ore., animation studio.
The ads target "switchers," the consumers who defect from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon to sign-up with Alltel, says Lucie Pathmann, Alltel director of marketing publicity. "We want to give customers on eligible rate plans the ability to choose this phone, too, but we really want to target new customers," she says. "The holidays gave us a chance to do some different with the characters, which many have come to know and love."
Michael Nelson, a Stanford Group research equity analyst, who follows marketing and advertising at telecommunications carriers, says Alltel's marketing campaign has been "extremely successful" during the last six months.
Alltel added 205,000 subscribers in the third quarter ending Sept. 30, reaching about 12.5 million. Nelson says Alltel's network geographically spans larger than Verizon, but the company serves consumers only in the central states. Alltel's subscriber growth has been accelerating, as the overall industry has been decelerating.
Nelson believes Alltel and Verizon are two companies executing well on marketing strategies. Both have characters in which consumers can relate. "It all comes down to innovative marketing and distribution strategies because there's little difference between the technologies and coverage each use to support customers," he says.
The ads highlight Alltel's holiday promotion, offering shoppers who purchase a Motorazr V3a for $19.99 a second one for free. The offer, available to new customers with a two-year service agreement and to existing customers on qualifying rate plans, runs through Jan. 10.
The Motorazr V3a features a music player and up to 1GB of optional removable MicroSD memory, a 1.3 megapixel camera, video capture and playback, enabling users to share memories with friends and family using Alltel's Axcess Picture and Video Messaging services.
Customers who take advantage of the buy-one-get-one offer and sign up for a qualifying calling plan can join "My Circle," Alltel's service launched April 2006 that allows customers to choose who they call for free, any 10 numbers, any network, including cellular and landlines.
"It's a three-legged stool," says Pathmann. She attributes Alltel's success to Chad and Sales Guys campaign, along with out-of-the-box services, such as My Circle, and airing TV spots on cable stations that reach more people.
Meanwhile, venture capital firms TPG Capital and GS Capital Partners are expected to take Alltel private by the end of the year. Analysts estimate sooner, than later.