Cox Taps New Agency, Seeks Tagline

Cox Communications Inc. said it would phase out its "Now You're Living" branding campaign this year, following the appointment of Southfield, Mich.-based W. B. Doner as its new advertising agency.

The new shop's charge is to create a brand position and tagline with crossover appeal for both the MSO's consumer and business divisions, said Cox vice president of marketing Joe Rooney.

"I hope we would have one message for both business and residential that works well for both," Rooney said.

Cox expects to introduce a new branding campaign in the third quarter of this year, said Cox director of creative services and branding Dena Malsom.

In the meantime, Doner will help to develop an MSO-wide subscriber acquisition campaign set to break in May.

"We were looking for an agency that had a very good balance of establishing a brand and helping us with direct acquisitions," both at headquarters and in the field, Malsom noted.

Added Rooney, "It's not just about the quality of the advertising, but the market-share gains, too."

Rooney called Doner's brand-building expertise and acquisitions-marketing experience a "one-two punch." The agency created the hard-to-ignore "Zoom Zoom" ads for Mazda Motor Corp.

Doner has also learned to distribute marketing materials to different field offices throughout the country through its work with such clients as Arby's Inc. restaurants, which has multiple franchises. It intends to post new creative work for Cox's upcoming campaigns on an extranet that allows the different systems to access the materials by computer.

The extranet would also allow system-level executives to share competitive information and local success stories, Malsom said.

"We're a very decentralized company," Rooney said. "Having an agency that can partner with our field offices was very important to us."

Cox introduced the new agency to its system-level marketing executives during a video conference earlier this month. Because the local systems control most of the MSO's marketing budget decisions, Rooney said, it would be difficult to put a figure on the value of the Doner account.

Each local system will determine how much of its media-buying business to place in the hands of Doner, rather than the local ad firms they may have used in the past, he said.

Cox began its search for a new ad firm last December. Its previous agency, BBDO South in Atlanta, resigned from the Cox account upon signing Cingular Wireless.

Cingular's parents-telecom providers SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp.-voiced a conflict of interest.

Cox wouldn't have had a problem with BBDO's working on the Cingular account, Rooney said, provided the agency had been able to construct a wall between the two accounts. "As a bundled-service provider, we realize it's hard not to run into a conflict," he added.

RedDragon Consulting helped Cox with its agency search. According to Rooney, RedDragon started with a list of 70 potential shops and ultimately presented Cox with four finalists. Several Cox system-level marketers helped in the decision-making, as did corporate executives from business services, marketing and sales.

According to Rooney, RedDragon interviewed Cox executives-including CEO Jim Robbins-to make sure marketing efforts were aligned with the company's operations.

The agency finalists were given an assignment related to the business-services side of the company, so Cox could evaluate their perspectives on some of the challenges that face the MSO.

"There's nothing we do at Cox Communications that doesn't have some impact on Business Services," Rooney said. "There is the hope that [Doner] will prove itself to the Business Services side of the company."

While Doner comes up to speed on its new account, Cox systems are likely to continue to run those branding and acquisitions ads already in the pipeline.

"We're in a very high-growth mode, so we have to hit the ground running," said Malsom.

Added Rooney: "We advertise 52 weeks a year. At Cox, we really value our image and branding efforts. We recognize the value our cross-channel advertising inventory represents to us."