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 unaffected 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 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 pieces 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 past 18 months. 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 -- the country's No. 6 wireless provider, according to its website -- has been steadily decreasing its measured-media spending. From January through October of last year, the company spent $74.5 million in the U.S. That was down from $98.3 million in 2010 and an even further drop from $109.3 million in 2009, according to Kantar. U.S. Cellular's spending is a fraction of Verizon 's, telecom's biggest spender, with $1.5 billion in U.S. outlays.
Contributing: Kunur Patel, Alexandra Bruell