Sprint Puts Creative Ad Account Up for Grabs

No. 3 Telecom Has $1.6 Billion Marketing Budget, Seeks 'Fresh Thinking'

By Published on .

SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Citing a need for "fresh thinking," Sprint, the nation's No. 3 telecom provider, which spends $1.6 billion in marketing, has placed the creative portion of its advertising account into review.
Sprint said it is seeking an ad agency that can provide it with a 'differentiated message.'
Sprint said it is seeking an ad agency that can provide it with a 'differentiated message.'

'Open to any options'
Company spokeswoman Mary Nell Westbrook said Sprint informed its long-term agencies, TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, which handles consumer advertising, and Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, its agency for business-to-business advertising, that it is "open to any options to bring us back to a competitive position" in the wireless marketplace.

After Sprint acquired Nextel in the summer of 2005, the merged company kept both incumbent shops and divided duties between them.

Hal Riney response
A spokeswoman for Publicis & Hal Riney said the agency was assessing whether it would participate in the review. The agency developed the black trenchcoat-wearing "Sprint guy" (played by actor Brian Baker) who espoused the virtues of the wireless service in more than 150 ads from 1999 to 2005. He was dropped after TBWA won the consumer account following a pitch.

TBWA did not return calls for comment. In the fall, the agency developed ads featuring actor Ron Livingston discussing the Sprint network in a straightfoward, plain-talking manner as part of a "Power Up" branding strategy.

Ms. Westbrook said the wireless service provider is looking for a "differentiated message" as "one element of many when we look at regaining our momentum in the marketplace."

Ms. Westbrook would not discuss whether both incumbents would be invited to participate or if they have agreed to participate in the process. She said the company would release a shortlist within a few weeks. The goal is to have an agency by the end of the first quarter, possibly in March or April.

Media stays at MindShare
Sprint CMO Mark Schweitzer will conduct the review. No consultant will be involved, she said. The media business was consolidated at WPP Group's MindShare in February and will remain in place.

The move comes as AT&T fires up its marketing to announce the re-branding of No. 1 carrier Cingular into AT&T, with an effort that is expected to exceed $1 billion.
Most Popular