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Ad Campaign Builds Leads for Cox Biz Unit

Cox Communications Inc.'s burgeoning business services unit has picked up more than 2,000 client leads since it launched its first advertising campaign in April.

Officials from the unit — which provides bundled voice, video and high-speed data services through Cox cable systems to businesses around the country — said they need more time to determine how many new clients resulted from those leads.

Still, as the rollout of a second wave of ads approaches, they label the effort successful.

"In fact, it's been better than expected," said Cox director of branding and marketing communications Dena Malsom. "We're generating a lot of leads as well as traffic on our Web site."

Cox Business Services generated $230 million in revenue during 2002. For the latest reported quarter, covering April through June of 2003, officials said revenue rose 31% from the prior-year period.

Twenty-two Cox systems are participating in "Drive Demand," the ad campaign that premiered last spring. Prepared by Minneapolis-based agency Periscope, it takes a humorous approach to educating companies about new competitive advantages.

In a series of TV, print and radio ads, plus direct-mail pieces, people in odd situations are depicted — odd for operating at a disadvantage, compared to the rest of the field.

For example, someone in a Tour de France-type cycling event is shown riding at the rear of the pack, on a tricycle. Or a sled-dog race contestant asks poodles to mush forward.

"The person is not using the right tool to win a competitive race," Malsom said. "The theme, expressed with smart business humor, is that our services can improve a company's efficiency or cost savings."

Three 60-second TV spots aired in cross-channel avails in each market during April, then ran again for several weeks this summer. Networks reaching business owners aged 25 to 54 were targeted for cross-channel runs, including plays on MSNBC, Cable News Network, Fox News Channel, CNBC and Bloomberg TV, said Cox Business marketing communications manager Betty Roberts.

Viewers are directed to dial a toll-free number or click the Cox unit's Web site.

Cox Business also bought radio and print ad buys in eight markets, including Las Vegas; Oklahoma City; Omaha, Neb.; San Diego; and Wichita, Kan. Elsewhere, systems drew from their own promotional budgets for radio or print schedules.

"Many of our markets piggybacked any local initiatives in place on top of what we did," Roberts said.

A few systems created outdoor billboards or exhibits for local events.

More than 125,000 direct-mail pieces went to potential small and midsized business clients in Cox markets over the last five months.

The next round is slated to begin in a few weeks, after Cox officials conduct some focus groups with new clients.