AT&T's credit card unit is up for sale, but that has not stopped it from launching its first major advertising campaign in four years.
AT&T Universal Card Services' new television commercial, which made its debut last week, is meant to attract holiday shoppers-and to remind consumers that the company, long viewed as a quiet giant, is still in the swing of things.
The ad, developed by Young & Rubicam, is also among the first credit card spots to focus on electronic commerce. It shows a woman in a country home who has a sudden urge to shop, and turns on her computer to surf the Internet.
The women browses on-line merchandise, but hesitates when asked to give her credit card number. After the narrator says, "The AT&T card is secure no matter where you shop," she confidently completes her transaction.
Andrew O. Watson, vice president of electronic distribution at AT&T's card unit, said the campaign is "directed at everyone, but with a little twist for Internet users."
He said, "The overall message is to pay more attention to us."
Industry experts say the ad distinguishes AT&T, of Jacksonville, Fla., from its competitors, which are not using the theme of on-line security to promote their products.
"The ad is on the cutting edge," said Russ Schoper, president of Business Developments International, Atlanta, Ga. He said AT&T was probably relying on research showing that many of its customers own computers and are making purchases on the Internet.
Donald M. Berman, president of Cardholder Management Services, Plainview, N.Y., said the ad was a boon for electronic commerce.
"Security is a position that the card industry is happy to see AT&T take on," Mr. Berman said. "The AT&T brand adds more credibility to Internet shopping."
AT&T Corp. is in the midst of a broader advertising campaign aimed at promoting commerce, commercial and retail, on the Internet. The ads, part of a brand campaign called "It's all within your reach," have an educational flavor.
Mr. Watson said the timing of the credit card ad has nothing to do with AT&T's announcement in October that it planned to sell its $14 billion card portfolio.
"We had this planned before the portfolio sale came up," he said.
The ad is being aired in 11 markets, including Atlanta, New York, Detroit, and San Francisco.