PCS marketers ready to unleash barrage of ads

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Although many consumers don't understand exactly what it is, PCS--billed as a next-generation cellular product--is gaining speed as it spreads across the country.

PrimeCo Personal Communications--a company formed by AirTouch Communications, Bell Atlantic Corp., Nynex Corp. and U S West Media Group--this week goes into full swing with its first campaign from Angotti, Thomas, Hedge, New York.


PrimeCo is introducing its personal communications service in 16 markets nationwide, including Chicago, Houston, Miami and New Orleans. Spending is estimated at $50 million.

Most major U.S. cities will soon be inundated with ad and marketing messages from at least five companies--often including AT&T Wireless and MCI Communications Corp.--offering cellular or wireless services sometime in early 1997.

American Portable Telecom, last week changed its name to Aerial Communications and plans to launch its own PCS service in six markets, including Houston, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Pittsburgh, early next year.


Aerial recently awarded its $15 million account to Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco. And just a few months ago Sprint PCS, a wireless alliance of Comcast Corp., Cox Communications, Sprint and Tele-Communications Inc., awarded Hal Riney & Partners its estimated $30 million account.

Deloitte & Touche Consulting estimates there are close to 39 million wireless subscribers in 1996, and predicts that number will grow to about 73 million by the year 2000. "The key is to create a brand that has up until now been a brand-less category," said Karen Little, VP-marketing and sales at PrimeCo. Foreshadowing just how cluttered the category is looking to become, already two companies are sporting similar logos.


PrimeCo created a hot pink logo that features a "playful-looking" telephone, as described by Barry Hedge, president of Angotti. Aerial last week unveiled its logo, which features a similarly playful-looking phone device.

"We're entering a market where competitors will be spending a lot of money trying to acquire new customers," said Dan O'Brien, director of advertising at Ameritech Cellular & Paging, which just a couple of weeks ago awarded Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, its estimated $50 million account. "Regardless of our spending going up, we expect our share of voice to go down; that's why we need our creative to work harder than it ever has before," he said.

Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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