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Regional Telecom vs. National Carriers

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CHICAGO Dobson Cellular, a regional wireless telecommunications provider, touts the reliability of its network in a new campaign from Barkley Evergreen & Partners.

Television spots from the independent Kansas City, Mo., agency broke last week in regional markets served by the client. Dobson, which also operates under the Cellular One name, is the country's largest regional wireless provider, offering telecommunications in 16 states.

The commercials take a humorous approach to cellular calling, depicting how Dobson's network is so reliable that people can make a call about anything from anywhere. One ad takes place in a bathroom, where a man at a urinal overhears a man in a toilet stall conducting a business meeting thanks to Dobson's network. "With Cellular One, you can talk from more places, even when you probably shouldn't," says a voiceover. "Cellular One, use its power wisely."

Another spot takes place on an airplane as an attractive woman discusses a medical condition over the phone. "They're not sure if it's a fungus or an infection," she says as a seatmate overhears.

"Cellular One had put a lot of improvements into their network over the last year," said Brian Brooker, chief creative officer and CEO of the shop. "We wanted to communicate what that means for the consumer."

As a regional carrier, Dobson/Cellular One competes mostly against national players like Cingular and Verizon, while other regional carriers like Rural Cellular and U.S. Cellular tend to have markets to themselves. To compete with the national rivals, regional companies like Dobson/Cellular One must come up with plans that are more customized for regional consumers, Brooker said.

While the details of customized plans will be outlined in ending tags on the TV ads and in radio spots, Brooker said focusing on the network's reliability was necessary to even get noticed.

"If you're not known for your network, you don't get credit for those other things," Brooker said. "Our mission was to make sure they got credit for all the improvements they've made in their network."

Earlier this year, Rural Cellular, which operates Unicel in 15 states, attempted to differentiate itself from the bigger players with a campaign from independent agency Kelliher Samets Volk in Burlington, Vt. The effort included a Web site, informational booklet and speaking tour to educate parents about "Cyber bullies." The work carried Unicel's tagline, "The way wireless should be."

Spending on the effort was not disclosed. Dobson spent about $1 million on advertising last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.