MCI Communications Corp. unveiled at its annual shareholders' meeting yesterday its largest TV and print advertising campaign to date, in which big discounts over AT&T are conspicuously absent.
MCI advertising is now targeting large business customers in a trend that will be reflected by all long-distance competitors as costs for local connections rise and discounts over AT&T shrink, analysts say.
AT&T competitors are paying more for connections to local networks that eliminate lengthy codes customers previously had to dial to make long-distance telephone calls.
"MCI is reinventing itself once again," Chairman William G. McGowan told shareholders. "We are changing our marketing focus to increase and deepen our penetration of the largest users of telecommunications services."
McGowan indicated an unspecified rate reduction may take place in response to AT&T's announced plans to drop long-distance rates by $1.5 billion. But he added: "I believe our customers realize there is more to service than price. Price measures the worth of an item or service at any one time. Value expresses worth over time. MCI is in the business of offering value."
"Their costs are going up dramatically . . . They are not going to be able to depend on the big price differential" over AT&T, said Frank Governali, a telecommunications analyst at Kidder Peabody.
MCI has introduced new WATS and other business products in recent months.
"Eventually, they knew they would have to compete on the quality of service rather than price of service and on the value-added business services they can provide," said George R. Dellinger, vice president of Washington Analysis Corp.