Cellular One tries unlucky ad pitch for wireless users

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Cellular One Group is breaking an estimated $6 million to $10 million cable TV campaign that features hapless folk who need wireless phones to cope with their really bad luck.

In addition to network cable, spots on broadcast network TV will follow in the autumn detailing predicaments people can find themselves in when they don't have a cellular phone. One shows a dog sled driver stranded in the tundra when his dogs race off, leaving him and his sled behind. The other focuses on a man fishing in a secluded spot who snags his car keys on his lure, then casts them into the water.

Two additional executions are planned.

The campaign has no tagline, but voice-over intones, "Inevitably, there will come a time in your life when you will need a cellular phone. When that time comes, we'll be here." Publicis, Dallas, is the agency.

Cellular One, the country's No. 4 wireless company, markets its services through a national network of franchises. The company purchases national media, leaving franchisees to buy spot TV, outdoor and print ads, according to Brice Campbell, account director at Publicis.

EVERYONE'S A PROSPECT

Mr. Campbell said Cellular One is hoping to bring in new cellular customers with the campaign. "We're trying to capitalize on the fact that everybody is a prospect for wireless phones now," he said.

He added that Cellular One is not targeting business travelers, who can get one-rate calling plans from AT&T Wireless, or the tech crowd, who can get wireless Internet services through Sprint PCS Group. "The phone for Everyman is ground that no one has taken now," Mr. Campbell said.

The Cellular One campaign replaces its 7-year-old "Clear across America" tag from Publicis. Cellular One is a joint venture between Western Wireless and SBC. The company could not be reached for comment at press time.

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