Nextlink puts McKinney on telecom roster

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Telecommunications company Nextlink Communications connected with McKinney & Silver last week, awarding the Raleigh, N.C., agency its $20 million-plus account.

Nextlink, a sibling of Nextel, handles voice, data communication services and Web hosting, primarily for business-to-business customers. McKinney may do some consumer work for Nextlink down the road.

McKinney is Nextlink's first national agency, and will create ads for more than 60 of Nextel's markets. An integrated branding effort is slated to break at the end of the summer. That campaign is expected to run through Thanksgiving, and will be supported with about $20 million in media.

Nextlink expects to spend an estimated $50 million on its advertising in 2001, according to an executive close to the situation.

OTHER CONTENDERS

McKinney beat out fellow finalist Mullen, Wenham, Mass., to nab the account. Grey Worldwide, New York, and JWT Technologies, San Jose, Calif., also participated in the review. Nextlink didn't use a review consultant.

McKinney declined to comment on the campaign, and referred calls to Nextlink. A Nextlink spokesman confirmed the win, but declined to comment on campaign details, citing competitive reasons.

Nextlink's previous agency, Copacino, Seattle, which had handled the account on a project basis, created local and regional work. Copacino created a print campaign that played up the unfavorable image of local phone companies with copy that read "We're a phone company. (Don't hold it against us.)"

Although McKinney's work will be primarily a business-to-business initiative, much of the media will run through consumer-oriented TV and magazines, since Nextel is targeting small-business owners, according to an executive with knowledge of the media plan.

COMPETITION

Founded in 1994, Nextlink will try to compete with telecommunications giants such as AT&T Corp., WorldCom/MCI and Sprint Corp. It will also have competition from the former regional Bell operating companies such as Verizon Communications, the newly merged Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE.

In June, Nextlink merged with Internet service provider Concentric Network Corp. The merger gives Nextlink a leg up on Web hosting against competition such as WorldCom's UUNet.broadband front.

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