LEAVE A MESSAGE
September 17, 2012 by JoBe Cerny
It’s interesting when a company becomes a person. For me, Ameritech was more than a phone company. It was a group of people I worked with for many years. Once upon a time, there was a company nick-named “Ma Bell”. And she became a monopoly so she had to be done away with. Since she wasn’t a real person, no one mourned her passing. She was too efficient and simple and outlived her usefulness. So, Ma Bell was shattered into many Baby Bells who all developed their own personalities. That was a boom for the advertising industry because each Baby Bell needed an identity. Each one of these new companies created competition which was a good thing because it created new ideas and new technology. It also created more jobs. Eventually, more and more phone companies that were not Bell related were formed creating even more choices of phone service. Consumers now had lots of choices. An advertising category that previously had only one potential client now had many potential clients. And for me, my favorite phone company was Ameritech.
My relationship with Ameritech began as an actor doing commercials and videos. Ameritech projected a people friendly image so I was a good fit. Service was Ameritech’s most important product. So the employees they hired were well-trained to provide great service, and the company spent a lot of time creating training videos for their employees in an effort to constantly improve their service. Ameritech took communication so seriously there was an entire division of people who annually made almost a thousand training videos for Ameritech employees. They even had an internal television network to keep employees updated and educated. So, I learned a lot about Ameritech from performing in the videos and that helped me understand their corporate policies. Combining the corporate knowledge with the commercial messages helped me do a better job in both areas. Since the commercial message projected a friendly helpful image, the internal communications department created lots of videos to ensure that employees were well-trained and helpful. We did those videos in the Ameritech studios, where I got to know lots Ameritech employees and discovered that they were indeed friendly and helpful. I always take an interest in the welfare of the companies I work with. I have discovered that once you become a person to a corporation, it is easier to build a business relationship with the company.
George Macropolis and Don Voight liked using me in the training videos. The scripts were always positive and humorous, and internal bosses who saw me in the videos eventually got to know my name. One day, I acted in a video on the top floor of the building which housed all the executive’s offices. In the video, I played a disruptive employee. It was a Jerry Lewis bumbler sort of role in which I caused a major disturbance on the top floor of the building. We quietly spent most of the morning shooting most of the video, but then it was time for my stunt scene (I was a gymnast in high school, and I knew how to take falls) and unbeknownst to the executives I was going to vault over the coffee cart that served the executives each morning. The first time I vaulted and crashed into the cart creating a big ruckus, all the executives came running out of their offices to see me sprawled on the floor. As they all crowded around me wondering if I was alright, George and Don told them I was an actor who regularly did the Ameritech training videos and commercials, and I was just doing a stunt for the video. And they all laughed and shook my hand and then watched me do a few more takes. At that point, I think I became a person for Ameritech. I had a name, and everyone remembered me.
Over a very long period of time, my studios did the radio commercials for Ameritech. As the account shifted from N.W Ayer to Tatham-Euro to Leo Burnett to Campbell-Ewald to Flair Communications, Ameritech retained my studio’s services. And, during that entire period of time, I continued to do videos for internal videos and communications of Ameritech. Today, I don’t know anyone at any phone company. Each time I call with a service problem, I get an automated menu. One day I called information to see if there was an internal communications division for my service provider, and I was informed they no longer have internal communications.