Exclusive: Boost Mobile taps Berlin for national push

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Nextel-backed Boost Mobile tapped Berlin Cameron/Red Cell to handle its $50 million-plus national rollout.

The New York-based agency won out over Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, and incumbent Team One, El Segundo, Calif., a Publicis Groupe shop.

"Berlin Cameron had the enthusiasm," said Peter Adderton, the 36-year-old founder, CEO and president of Boost Mobile, which provides prepaid cellphone service. "We are a marketing brand. The nearest thing you can compare us to is a Nike for the wireless business."

Nextel Communications owns 66% of Boost Mobile and provides its telecommunications service. Boost has been available so far only in California and parts of Nevada, but is set to begin a national rollout.

Mr. Adderton said Berlin Cameron's pitch showed its ability to tap into the youth market. The WPP Group agency's charge, he said, is to "make Boost Mobile a relevant brand for all of America's youth, across all demographics."

Boost Mobile's phones are prepaid, use Motorola hardware and include features such as games, address books, two-way text messaging and walkie-talkie service.

Berlin Cameron will create a launch campaign that includes TV, radio and out-of-home advertising. Boost would not comment on the budget, but it is believed to be at least $50 million, and one executive familiar with the plan said that figure could more than double to support a full national rollout.

new categories

The Boost Mobile victory came just over a week after Berlin Cameron won the $74 million Zyrtec account from Pfizer, meaning the agency must quickly gain expertise in two new categories. The wins "are good creative opportunities," said CEO Ewen Cameron.

Berlin Cameron's work for one of the world's best-known brands, Coca-Cola Classic, caught the attention of Boost's Mr. Adderton. The agency was named in February to head the Coke account in North America.

"We'd been interested in getting into the [telecommunications] category and in fact we dropped out of the Virgin Mobile review to pursue this," said Mr. Cameron. "At the younger end of the market, technology is almost surpassing sneakers and fashion."

Mr. Adderton founded Boost four years ago in Australia, and launched it in the U.S. a year ago. The brand connects with its youth target by sponsoring athletes and competitions in street sports such as skateboarding.

"If you talk to street skateboarders, they are very sophisticated about being exploited. They respect what Boost has done, how they treat the sport, how they market the sport," Mr. Cameron said.

challenge

Boost's national ambitions represent a significant challenge. About 10 million to 15 million people use some type of prepaid mobile service in the U.S., said Seamus McAteer, senior analyst at the Zelos Group. He estimates the market has the potential to grow to 30 million in the next five years. More than half a dozen players compete in the segment, including T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA, and telecommunications giants such as Verizon, Cingular and AT&T Wireless have their eyes on the market as well.

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