U.S. Cellular Throws Creative, Media and Digital account Into Review

Steve’s breakdown: This is the 6th largest cellular business out there but it still represents a $74 million advertising account.

CHICAGO IL: Wireless carrier U.S. Cellular has put its creative account into review, according to people familiar with the matter.

Publicis Groupe’s Publicis & Hal Riney handles creative, and sibling agency Modem handles digital marketing; both are believed to be defending the account. It’s understood that the review includes creative across several media, including broadcast, digital and out-of-home.

U.S. Cellular, Hal Riney and Modem did not respond to requests for comment. Hal Riney and sibling media agency Starcom , which is not affected by the review, have been handling the U.S. Cellular account since 2007. Consultancy Mercer Island Group is overseeing the review process.

The news is the latest in a series of recent account fluctuations in the wireless category. Last month Sprint moved its account from Goodby Silverstein & Partners to Publicis Groupe’s newly created Team Sprint, which is led by Digitas with creative coming from Leo Burnett. Sprint is also in the process of moving most of its media-buying and -planning business from WPP’s Mindshare to Team Sprint, via VivaKi, despite sibling agency Starcom ‘s relationship with U.S. Cellular.

Earlier this month Verizon Communications launched a review for its digital-marketing business, which is split among multiple agencies, with some of the larger chunks at Interpublic’s R/GA and Publicis Groupe’s Moxie Interactive.

U.S. Cellular, which is largely a player in smaller U.S. markets, has had management changes in the last year and a half. Seventh Generation and PepsiCo alum David Kimbell was named VP-marketing in early 2011, and Mary Dillon, who came to U.S. Cellular as president-CEO in May 2010 after serving as global CMO at McDonald’s.

Chicago-based U.S. Cellular — which is the country’s sixth-largest wireless provider, according to its website, trailing Verizon , AT&T , Sprint and T-Mobile — has been steadily decreasing its measured media spending in recent years. From January through October of last year, the company spent $74.5 million in the U.S., down from $98.3 million in 2010, which was a drop from 2009’s spending of $109.3 million, according to Kantar. U.S. Cellular’s spending is a fraction of Verizon ‘s, telecom’s biggest spender, $1.5 billion U.S. outlay.

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