Maurice Sendak: Wild Things Are Happening Bell Atlantic Campaign

Bell Atlantic – Wild Things Are Happening (1998)

Swimming into the Ocean Storyboard
2.75×7.25 in

Catching Butterflies Storyboard with Hawk

3.5×8 in

Catching Butterflies Storyboard

6.5×8.5 in

Alligator Bridge

5×7 in


Bell Atlantic Wild Things Introductory Launch

Wild Things are Happening: Bell Atlantic’s Campaign by Ahron D. Weiner

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 ushered in an era of deregulation that provided increased choice and confusion for the average customer. Strange new technologies were emerging, and the long-distance carriers, as well as a plethora of small upstart companies were promising to offer these new services.

The regional Bell companies started merging to achieve the scale needed to compete in this dynamic marketplace- the 1997 merger of NYNEX and Bell Atlantic created the largest company of its kind.

There was concern that customers, already confused by rapid changes in the marketplace, would be intimidated by the prospect of dealing with a company as large as the newly merged Bell Atlantic. We knew that Bell Atlantic was a huge company, but that it also had the ability to provide tailored solutions and an unparalleled level of customer care.

Enter Maurice Sendak’s Caldecott Medal-winning Wild Things– the perfect allegory for a gentle giant (once tamed by Max’s magic trick, of course). The Lord Group, a New York-based advertising agency, developed the idea of using Maurice’s beloved characters to humanize Bell Atlantic and presented the concepts to a very enthusiastic client. At that point, Maurice was approached, and he agreed to work with the agency provided he retained ultimate creative control of the finished product.

Having reached this agreement, the agency worked closely with Maurice to craft a remarkable series of advertisements. The allegorical campaign featured Wild Things and children in natural settings, which maintained the integrity of the characters and concept. While modern technology is never seen, the advertisements communicated a wide range of messages- from basic phone services to complex technological concepts of supply-chain management and the benefits of high-speed data products.

In terms of actual production of the ads and animation, Maurice illustrated each of the five print ads and all of the billboards, and drew key frames for each of the TV spots. These key frames were then sent to a well- known London-based animation studio to be brought to life.

The campaign won a highly coveted Effie award, which is given for campaigns that maintain excellence in creativity and marketing effectiveness, and Maurice also won a Clio award in 1998 for his print ad illustrations.

This project was the most significant commercial use of the Wild Things characters. It is fair to say that everyone who was involved in the project- including Maurice- took great pleasure in this collaboration.