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Two Finalists in U.S. Cellular Agency Search

Incumbent Riney, Mullen said to have made cut
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U.S. Cellular, the nation's sixth biggest wireless carrier, has narrowed its creative agency review to incumbent Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco and Boston-based Mullen, industry sources said.

Execs at the two finalist agencies could not be reached for comment. Outside consultant Mercer Island Group, which is conducting the review process, did not respond to an Adweek inquiry.

U.S. Cellular had cut the list of agency participants to six before naming the two finalists. According to the review RFP distributed in December, the Chicago-based company intended to meet with semifinalists in January before cutting to the final two contenders. The document defined the lead agency assignment as bringing ad strategies to life in traditional and digital mediums and collaborating with other agencies, such those in media, interactive, social and retail. The RFP describes U.S. Cellular, which primarily operates in smaller markets in 26 states, as a “challenger brand in an intensely competitive industry.”

Separately, U.S. Cellular has been conducting a review for a digital partner. Sources say there was no incumbent per se; the carrier is said to have been working with several small agencies.

Former McDonald’s CMO Mary Dillon joined U.S. Cellular as president and CEO in June 2010. Since then, the company has made management changes in its marketing operations. A year ago, David Kimbell, who has held marketing posts at companies like Seventh Generation and PepsiCo, was named vp of marketing at the wireless carrier. Last April, Alan Ferber, evp of operations, was promoted to chief strategy and brand officer.