In Adelphia Communications Corp.'s Southern California cluster, customers are talking.
Fortunately for Adelphia, they aren't cursing. They're saying things like: "When you call Adelphia there's a person on the other end, not just a recording." And, "I crunched the numbers and for me, digital cable was the way to go."
The operator's new branding campaign, running on cable channels in the cluster, features its own subscribers talking up Adelphia. Without referring to the parent company's bankruptcy reorganization, the spots remind consumers that the trucks are rolling, the phones are being answered and new products are being offered.
"Our level of confidence is very high," Southern California regional vice president Lee Perron said, adding he sees "product parity" with competitors, including satellite providers. "We want to get customers to experience it."
The region remains one of Adelphia's largest and most valuable. It spans 152 franchises in six counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside. It serves 1.2 million customers with 2.4 million homes passed.
According to marketing vice president of sales and marketing Mariann Belmonte, an impromptu poll of 5,000 subscribers taken shortly after Adelphia's bankruptcy filing found that the proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York weren't that important most of those customers.
"There was realization of what Adelphia was going through, but it wasn't top of mind," she said. "We got positive feedback. Ninety-five percent of customers cared only about getting home and the TV being on."
Armed with that information, Adelphia has continued its marketing throughout the corporate restructuring, the California executives said. But the new image campaign is the first to feature customers.
The campaign's "stars" were culled from poll respondents that offered positive comments about the operator. Six spots were created, plus one in Spanish, each one hitting on hot issues. The subscribers in the spots talk about choosing Adelphia after making cost comparisons, detailing positive installation experiences, and compliment the speed of Power Link, the operator's high-speed data brand.
Images from the campaign will be in ads in the Los Angeles Times
and Orange County Register.
The last time the MSO featured missives in those newspapers was an ad by acting CEO Erland Kailbourne reassuring customers Adelphia's service would continue after the bankruptcy filing.
The company's subscriber acquisition efforts continue, even as it massages its image.
"Funding for marketing is at pre-petition levels," said Perron. "Our success in driving product penetration is an important part of the rehabilitation of the company's finances."
For the current acquisition campaign, customers who sign up for expanded basic service can get four free months of digital service and all available premium service. The prices vary throughout Adelphia's many jurisdictions, but basic service averages $34.
New customers will save substantially for the first three months: an Adelphia Advantage pack, with basic, expanded basic and one premium service, typically costs $82.95 a month.
The operator also is highlighting a bundle that offers video and data packages at an average 10 percent discount, Belmonte said.
After the bankruptcy filing, Adelphia was hard hit in newspaper and direct-mail ads by competitors that questioned the MSO's viability and offered discounted service to customers that switched.
Adelphia executives wouldn't comment on whether those offers were effective, but said there has been an "ebb and flow" to basic-subscriber levels but continued growth in digital and high-speed data units.