Charlie Payne

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Luckily for Cingular Wireless, Charlie Payne thrives on change. The 33-year-old director of media for Cingular has led the wireless company's successful media strategy amid extreme volatility in the category, always on the lookout for alternative ways of breaking through the media clutter. "I love media because it's always changing, it's not the same every day," Ms. Payne exclaims.

This year, she pulled off high-profile product placements and promotions tied to the Hollywood blockbuster "Spider-Man" designed to push the fledgling brand into popular culture.

"My job as media director requires me to go outside of the grounds of media," says Ms. Payne, who oversees a budget of $300 million. "It's not always about planning and buying, it's about how do you activate Cingular in the marketplace, in media. ... Whether it's about a grassroots promotion we're putting on for college basketball or hiring street dancers, it's always about new, innovative ways to connect."

In April, Ms. Payne and her team, working with Omnicom Group's BBDO, Atlanta and New York, implemented an integrated marketing campaign. It included Internet, national TV, print, radio, outdoor and outreach that backed a promotion tied to Sony Pictures Entertainment's "Spider-Man." Ms. Payne, who started her career at BBDO, Atlanta, was able to finesse her media spending by extending it to a placement of Cingular's logo in the movie's Times Square scene in which the Green Goblin and Spider-Man meet for battle. While it was only a 2- or 3-second visual, "it was a real coup for us gaining access to the Spider-Man mark and logos," she says. Cingular, a joint venture of the wireless divisions of SBC Communications and BellSouth Corp., teamed up with handset marketers to offer phones with faceplates embossed with Spider-Man graphics, there were downloadable Spider-Man ring tones and movie trivia was delivered via Cingular service. By the end of the promotion, Cingular saw 4% increases in both brand awareness and sales.

"We use just about every form of media that there is," Ms. Payne says. For Cingular's entry into New York City, she says, it tapped outdoor media ranging from street vendor umbrellas and coffee cups to a Times Square billboard, and bus tours hosted by Spike Lee and Joan Rivers. In the future, "Online [marketing] and online distribution of our products and services will need to grow," she says.

Tie-ins with entertainment properties, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association and movies, will continue to help distinguish Cingular in the marketplace as a fun, hip brand, she says.

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