To back its aggressive push to sell multiple revenue-generating units of voice, video and data, Cox Communications Inc.'s corporate marketing team has created an umbrella campaign embracing all three products for use by its systems in the field.
The company's third-quarter ad campaign, which runs through September, incorporates television ads and direct-mail pieces with a common look and feel designed to identify the MSO with a variety of telecommunications products, and not just cable television.
One direct-mail piece and its matching point-of-purchase sign play upon the fast-food value-meal concept with the headline: "Presenting the Cox Combo. We Know It's an Idea You're Hungry for."
"Customers understand the idea of a value meal," Cox vice president of marketing Joe Rooney said. "It's easier to order, it means a better deal and they'll get a bigger Coke."
Although the "Cox Combo" tag sounds catchy, Rooney couldn't say whether it would be around for the long run. The marketing department wants to first conduct research on which phrasing resonates best with consumers. In the meantime, the MSO is using the "Cox Combo" term "as a placeholder" for future branding, Rooney said.
One option that's not likely to make the cut is the word "bundling" itself, he added, because it's not consumer-friendly enough. "The industry wants to bundle in the worst way," Rooney said. "We at Cox want to bundle in the best way."
BBDO Worldwide's Atlanta office, which had produced Cox's branding ads for a number of months, was recently given the added responsibilities of coordinating the umbrella campaigns for use by the systems. Cox recently brought former BBDO executive Dena Malsom in-house as its new director of creative services and branding.
Third-quarter television spots using a "spokesneighbor" theme are a good example of the MSO's umbrella strategy, Malsom said. The ads promote consistency, which ultimately helps to promote the bundle, she added.
In the TV campaign, average consumers promote the value of the different services. In one ad pitching digital cable, for example, a young woman's ex-boyfriend keeps coming back to her apartment to watch her wide variety of premium-movie channels.
Other ads with the same feel and attitude promote the value of using Cox@Home high-speed Internet service for doing homework and of receiving multiple phone lines and voice mail through Cox Digital Telephone-important features, especially for homes with teenagers.
Keeping the ads consistent can help potential customers to recognize the pitch when a direct-mail piece lands in their mailboxes.
"I can send [an offer about] a bundle of high-speed data and digital cable, and it will make sense," Rooney said. "It's very important that we get customers predisposed to the idea of bundling before they get on the phone."
Customers typically pick up the phone with the idea of spending no more than 10 or 15 minutes with a customer-service representative. If they've seen an ad for multiple services, it makes it much easier for the CSR to sell.
Cox plans to launch its fourth-quarter corporate umbrella campaign in October, with print materials sent to local systems on CD-ROMs.
Rooney recommended that operators run the call-to-action campaigns for four to eight weeks. "In our business, when you've got to make the phones ring, it's hard to make any one campaign work for 13 weeks," he added.
Branding campaigns, on the other hand, can last one year or two.
Systems are encouraged to fill in the corporate umbrella campaigns with ads of their own, especially targeted toward locally oriented promotions or events.
The company's Orange County, Calif., region was among its first to sell digital cable, telephone and high-speed data. California-based ad agency SCDRG Inc. helped to develop new ads promoting the three services, using lifestyle images to tie all of the products together.
Cox's Orange County system may also be the first in the U.S. to appoint an executive in charge of bundling. Nearly one year ago, the system named former Cox corporate executive Patti Marciano manager of bundling and electronic commerce.
"There was a recognition that if there wasn't someone focused on bundling, it would become a pile on someone's desk," Marciano said.
SCDRG president David Robertson said the "bundled" messages are important because focus groups have shown that many customers still don't know that their local cable company offers products other than video.
Next year, Cox plans to limit its corporate umbrella campaigns to three instead of four so that it will have more time to monitor response to the previous ads before starting production on new ones, Rooney said.
Umbrella marketing is a first step in the MSO's overall bundling strategy. Cox is already working on the next step-bundled billing-and it plans to release more details on that strategy later this year.
Several Cox systems have already begun testing a new billing-software platform that allows them to put video, voice and data on a single bill to "friendly," or employee homes, today.
"We want to go through a few cycles before we roll it out to consumers," Rooney said.
Under the new bundled-billing system, customers could still receive separate bills for the different services if they prefer, director of bundling and packaging Randy O'Neal said.
The Orange County system has helped Cox to try out different bundled promotions focused on installation discounts for customers who take multiple RGUs. New Cox customers are offered "significant savings" on installation if they sign up for telephone, digital-video and high-speed-data services at the same time, Marciano said.
At the system level, Orange County tags the creative spots from the corporate umbrella campaign with the installation- discount offers, which vary from market to market.
This month, Cox will field-test other bundled offers at various systems to see which promotions offer the best incentives for customers to upgrade from two Cox services to three, whether it's service discounts, free long-distance minutes or free premium-movie channels.
Along with its third-quarter ads, Cox recently produced a new anti-direct-broadcast satellite ad, including a spot promoting the MSO's dish-buyback program. Rooney said the first such ads would likely hit sometime this month, although he declined to say in which markets.
The MSO was still working out any legal issues involved in such promotions late last month.
In the new TV spots, a middle-aged man is seen holding a satellite dish and raving about all of the channels of movies and sports he can now access. At the end of the commercial, he hands the dish over to a Cox Digital Cable installer, who throws it into the back of a van along with others he has already collected.