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Qwest broadens broadband brand
Playful ads now airing are trying to change its image from a traditional phone company.
By Andrew LaVallee, The Wall Street Journal
Denver Post
Friday, May 8, 2009

Qwest Communications International is out to rebrand itself as a broadband provider rather than a traditional telecommunications company, wielding a playful ad campaign to advance the effort.

The campaign, which kicked off in late April, will unfold over the coming months, highlighting Qwest's Internet services and airing in its home markets, primarily in the Midwest and West.  The next ads feature a new wireless Internet offer, on the heels of a Wi-Fi partnership with AT&T Inc., and will air later in May.

Earlier ads promoted Personal Digital Vault, a new online- storage offering, and played lightly on people's data-loss fears by showing computer crises and their aftermath.  In one commercial, a mortified boy poses in a crib, in a high chair and on an undersize bicycle for new baby photos after his father dropped his laptop and lost all the originals.  Another ad features a humbled woman milking a cow after her computer crashed, destroying a thesis on medieval cooking rituals and forcing her to take a farming class to make it up.  The Holstein moos angrily.

Though the Denver-based telecom provider is well-known as a phone company, the campaign reflects its increased emphasis on high-speed Internet service, which is still growing as its voice business declines.  Qwest's first-quarter revenue fell 7 percent, and it shed 10.2 percent of its total access lines.  By contrast, broadband revenue climbed 5 percent, as Qwest added 42,000 net new subscribers.

Qwest executives often refer to the Internet as the company's "anchor" service.

The spots are Qwest's first advertising initiative under marketing chief Todd Townsend, who joined the company in February.  Townsend previously was chief marketing officer at Oklahoma City-based fast-food chain Sonic.  Its commercials also take a light approach.

The Qwest campaign sought to draw out "the humor that can be found in these customer situations," Townsend says.  "We're not trying to make it a serious or ominous situation, more than it is."

At the same time, he says, "we're also trying to tell people this is the humorous side unless it happens to you."

Qwest spent $77.8 million in advertising last year, down from $89.4 million in 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence.  It is outspent by cable rivals such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which spent $515.9 million and $167.6 million, respectively, in 2008, based on TNS figures.

Free Qwest Wi-Fi offered at shops, eateries

Qwest said Thursday it will offer its high-speed Internet customers free Wi-Fi service at 17,000 bookstores, coffee shops and fast-food restaurants nationwide.

Qwest will use AT&T's wireless Internet network to provide Wi-Fi access to Qwest customers at Barnes & Noble, Starbucks and McDonald's.

"People expect Internet access wherever they are," said Dan Yost, executive vice president for Qwest's Mass Markets division.

Wi-Fi locations and login information are available at

Steve Raabe, The Associated Press