Clearwire's New 'Rover' Aims to Sign Up Youngsters

Broadband Provider Taps Taxi for Wacky Viral-Video Marketing Push

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Growing broadband provider Clearwire today is launching a pay-as-you-go 4G internet service, dubbed Rover, backed by an off-the-wall marketing push it hopes will help sign up younger subscribers who don't want lengthy contracts.

The move makes the Kirkland, Wash.-based marketer the nation's first 4G prepaid provider, and is seen as a way to fend off competition from contract providers such as AT&T and Verizon that have reported they will begin offering 4G in select markets by the end of 2010, as well as 3G prepaid carriers such as Virgin and Boost Mobile, which could eventually enter the prepaid-mobile-internet market.

Up until now, Clearwire has only been offering its mobile-internet plans on a monthly basis, for as much as $55. Rover allows more flexibility, with plans that give users connectivity for $5 a day, $20 a week or $50 a month. There are two types of Rover devices. "Puck" is a portable hotspot-permitting connection for as many as eight Wi-Fi devices at a time, or a connection can be shared with as many as seven friends, while "Stick" is a USB-personal 4G modem. Puck and Stick come at a cost of $149 and $99, respectively, and will be available online at Rover.com and Best Buy, Radio Shack and other retailers.

To get the word out about the Rover brand, Clearwire hired agency Taxi, New York. "We were looking for an idea that could not only connect with our 18-to-24 audience but also position Rover as a unique brand and a total departure from what's available in the category," Seth Cummings, exec VP-Rover, said in a statement.

And a departure it certainly is: The campaign is centered around a set of viral video ads that portray cats as newscasters and babies with emoticons for faces. The viral campaign is supported by out-of-home, online banners and a social-media push that drives consumers to a website, Evology.com. There it's clear the demographic Clearwire is most targeting isn't only young, but also male, as consumers are invited to get more details about the mobile-internet service by clicking on an attractive woman in fishnet stockings.

Whether this push helps propel Clearwire -- whose strategic investors include Comcast, Sprint, Google and Time Warner Cable -- past other broadband providers remains to be seen, but the company is growing at a clip. Revenue for the second quarter of 2010 grew 93% year-over-year from $63.6 million in the second quarter of 2009. The company now has about 1.7 million subscribers but is aiming for 3 million by year's end.

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