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Thursday, May 17, 2007, 04:00 pm PT (07:00 pm ET)

Apple crowds out AT&T in iPhone advertising pick

Demonstrating the level of influence it has in the final days before the iPhone rollout, Apple will see its favorite advertising firm TBWAChiatDay take control of marketing the device, pushing aside AT&T's regular choice.

Those connected to the iPhone account have claimed that TBWA has won out in the contest for the rights to design Apple's marketing strategy for the highly anticipated handset, defeating its sister company BBDO. TBWA's Media Arts Lab will have the challenge of crafting TV ads, posters, and other creative elements.

While the precise reason for the victory remained elusive, a potentially decisive blow was said to be the firm's "Hello" ad during this year's Academy Awards, which garnered the iPhone ample attention despite a release date at least three months away.

The choice likely also has its roots in Apple's historical choices. TBWA was rehired to lead Apple's ad campaigns just as Steve Jobs returned to his company in 1997, and has been used to direct the advertising ever since — including the Think Different campaign and the now-iconic silhouette iPod ads. Jobs is said to be a personal friend of Lee Clow, chair of TBWA and the creator of the legendary "1984" ad.

Whichever factor had played into the decision, the selection of TBWA is said to reveal the sheer extent to which Apple's opinion has swayed AT&T in the iPhone launch. Although BBDO is AT&T's preferred advertiser for its phones and services, the ad agency's connection to the cellular provider was reportedly not enough to avoid the switch to a different contractor. The company's chances may have been soured by the lackluster sales of the Motorola ROKR iTunes phone, whose ad efforts were run by BBDO.

In spite of the defeat, BBDO is still said to be vying for secondary advertising deals to fill gaps that might be left in TBWA's strategy in the wake of the iPhone's June release.