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Friday, January 12, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Cingular's shedding of orange for blue signals post-merger identity

Seattle Times technology reporter

The result of several telecommunications mergers will become even more apparent to consumers today through the color combination of orange and blue.

San Antonio-based AT&T plans to announce that it will begin converting the Cingular Wireless brand, known for its orange "jack," to the blue AT&T globe.

The rebranding effort follows government approval of AT&T's $86 billion acquisition of BellSouth. Those two companies owned Cingular. A new advertising campaign will kick off Monday with the tagline: "Cingular is now the new AT&T." The transition will include elements from both brands.

Cingular will lend its "Raising the bar" tagline, while adopting the AT&T blue globe. The new ads will say "Raising it higher," with adjoining images of a flying orange Cingular jack wrapping blue bars around the iconic AT&T globe.

For the nostalgic, the changes can be traced back to events taking place in the Puget Sound area 13 years ago.

It was in 1994, when AT&T, the nation's dominant telecom from New York, bought a spry Kirkland company called McCaw Cellular Communications, which was fast becoming a dominant cellphone provider in the U.S.

AT&T paid $11.5 billion for McCaw and renamed it AT&T Wireless. The entity operated from its Redmond headquarters and ended up getting spun off by AT&T in 2001.

In 2004, the independent AT&T Wireless was up for sale. This time, Atlanta-based Cingular Wireless, jointly owned by SBC Communications and BellSouth, paid $41 billion for it. More consolidations followed. SBC jockeyed to buy the original AT&T, and renamed the combined entity AT&T.

As the new AT&T, it owned half of Cingular, prompting it in part to buy BellSouth to take complete control. The merger was approved last month, which brings us to today.

AT&T is a major conglomerate of telecommunications services, providing wireless service, land lines, Internet access and TV in a 22-state operating region. In Washington, it primarily provides wireless (Cingular) services.

Wireless is a strong focus of the entire company. Based on revenue estimates for AT&T and BellSouth, the largest chunk, or 34 percent, comes from wireless services. The second-largest category, at 26 percent, is business services.

The rebranding will aim to bring all aspects of the company together, said Nancy Ryan, a vice president at GSD&M, a marketing firm focused on AT&T's consumer branding.

"We are building an integrated company for integrated lives," she said.

What consumers might notice first are Cingular store makeovers. First, store employees will wear AT&T shirts and window signs will announce "Cingular the new AT&T." Eventually, Cingular store placards will be lowered and replaced with ones that say AT&T.

What won't make a resurgence is the AT&T Wireless brand.

"Wireless will become one of the services that's available from AT&T," said Denise Koenig, an AT&T spokesperson in San Antonio. "We are a complete provider of the quad package — TV, broadband, phone and wireless."

Koenig would not say how much the company will spend on advertising.

But she said that by having to market only the AT&T brand, the company would save about $2.7 billion, or 15 percent, of the overall $18 billion in projected savings from the merger.

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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