AT&T Inc.: Carrot Top campaign

Frank Caso


In 1982 the U.S. government mandated the breakup of the vast network of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) into smaller regional companies, the so-called Baby Bells. The regional companies handled local telephone calls, while AT&T continued to offer long-distance service. One area in which the new AT&T decisively lagged behind its competitors was in collect calls. The AT&T brand, 1-800 Call ATT for Collect Calls, had an uphill battle to overtake the category leader, or at least to gain market share, in long-distance collect calls, an area that was itself dwindling.

In order to address the problem, AT&T initiated a national campaign in 2001 to win the hearts and minds of young callers. The campaign was the brainchild of AT&T's longtime advertising agency, Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide of New York, but in October 2001 AT&T switched agencies, giving Young & Rubicam of New York all of its consumer advertising business. Young & Rubicam also inherited the latest ad campaign for 1-800 Call ATT for Collect Calls, which featured the brash young comic Carrot Top, the stage name of Scott Thompson. The integrated "Carrot Top" campaign consisted mainly of 15- and 30-second television spots, but it also included radio spots, print ads in newspapers and consumer magazines, outdoor signage, public relations work, ads shown in movie theaters, special events, and an online interactive component. The media expenditure for the campaign was in excess of $20 million.