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BellSouth Roams With a Purpose

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WestWayne's TV Spots Stress "All-in-One Rate' of Cellular Service
ATLANTA-Oh, give us a home, where the buffalo . . . phone?
That's the idea behind a trio of new comic ads from Atlanta's WestWayne for BellSouth Mobility. The spots stress the cellular telephone service's "All-in-One Rate," which allows consumers to pay a set monthly fee to escape roaming charges.
Each of the ads features a man dressed in a business suit, standing beside a bored-looking buffalo in a wide-open field. The man ardently addresses the beast, urging him, "You're free to roam. Go roam," while the animal chews its cud and stares blankly back at him.
Directed by Christopher Guest-who won critical kudos for the film Waiting for Guffman, but is better known as a member of the loony heavy metal band in This Is Spinal Tap-the television commercials skirt along the edge of absurdity while making their point as clear as a prairie in winter.
"Are you scared?" the man asks in one commercial when the buffalo does not budge. "It's okay. Sometimes I'm scared too. Sometimes I wake up and go, "Is it Wednesday?' And it's not. It's Tuesday."
According to WestWayne creative director Luke Sullivan, actor Sean Masterson "basically ad-libbed the entire damn thing" during an all-day shoot. The spots were culled from his on-the-spot improvisations.
"We told [Masterson] to "Bill Murray' his way through these, and that's exactly what we got," Sullivan said. "He's got great timing and delivery."
In a later spot, the man engages the buffalo in a game of catch after putting a baseball mitt on one of its antlers. In another, he berates the bison for being a "slacker."
Calling the new advertisements "the latest in the big telephone wars," Sullivan said, "We've got to break through the category . . . A guy talking to a buffalo [is] a simple visualization of a very intangible concept called "roaming.' "
The spots break today and will be seen throughout the South on prime- time programs like Friends, Law & Order and during the NBA Finals.