U.S. Cellular Signs Up Cusack

U.S. Cellular has inked a multiyear contract with actress Joan Cusack to star in advertising, starting with a fall campaign from Doner, the company said.

It is the first time the Chicago-based wireless service provider has used a celebrity endorser for advertising, said Peter Cremer, U.S. Cellular’s director of brand development. “We used stars as voiceovers, but never as a personality, as a face on our brand,” Cremer said.

U.S. Cellular’s ad spending was estimated by sources at $40 million. Doner in Southfield, Mich., has handled the business for about six years.

The agency’s campaign includes five television spots that break this fall in U.S. Cellular’s 155 markets in 26 states. The work continues to use the “We connect with you” tagline.

Several celebrities were considered for the U.S. Cellular job. Cusack was chosen because she was considered “warm and likeable.” She also has roots in Chicago and is especially well-received in the area, said Gary Wolfson, executive creative director at Doner.

U.S. Cellular in May expanded its services into the Chicago area when it acquired PrimeCo Wireless Communications for approximately $610 million. The company wanted a pitchman who would reflect that U.S. Cellular now serves the area, Cremer said.

Commercials in the campaign, which also includes print and radio, were shot last month in Chicago and directed by Tom DeCerchio of Incubator Films, Los Angeles.

In the television spots, Cusack will be seen in situations where she appears friendly, amusing and clever, Cremer said. Cremer and Wolfson declined to provide further details, other than to say the work will be lighthearted.

“Obviously with Joan, it’s not a drama,” Wolfson said.

Cusack also does voiceovers in radio, where her distinctive voice is a plus, Wolfson said.

Doner’s previous campaign showed a customer receiving poor service from a competitor and also incorporated humor.

U.S. Cellular is the eighth-largest wireless service provider behind market leaders Verizon Wireless, Cingular Wireless and AT&T Wireless, according to Hoovers Online.

Cusack was nominated for two Academy Awards for her performances in In and Out and Working Girl. She also had roles in Sixteen Candles, Grosse Point Blanke and a number of other films, in addition to a short-lived ABC sitcom shot in Chicago, What About Joan.