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Sprint Spin-off Taps Mullen

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ATLANTA IPG's Mullen has been hired by Sprint Nextel to handle creative chores for a new local phone company that will spin out of the telecom next year, the client said today.

Mullen's office in Winston-Salem, N.C., will help launch the brand and handle consumer and business-to-business duties across all divisions.

Sources pegged billings at $50 million. The client in Overland Park, Kan., spent in excess of $40 million in paid media last year and close to $20 million in the first half of 2005 to support its local phone services, per TNS Media Intelligence.

Sprint also said roster shops Nicholson Kovac in Kansas City and Lewis Advertising in Rocky Mount, N.C., would handle consumer and b-to-b media planning and buying, respectively, for the new local phone initiative. Previously, they handled projects for Sprint DSL.

The as-yet-unnamed company will operate in 18 states once it is spun off in early- to mid-2006, the client said. The company is expected to make an initial public offering next year.

Federal regulators approved Sprint's $35 billion acquisition of Nextel in August. In September, the company launched its $400 million "Yes you can" campaign to introduce the new Sprint brand.

Mullen was selected for the local phone assignment following a review of undisclosed shops. There was no incumbent on the business, which constitutes a new assignment. The Winston-Salem office will undertake most of the work, with interactive and direct chores handled by Mullen's headquarters office in Wenham, Mass.

Mullen was already a roster shop, working on Sprint public relations in New England, and for seven years had handled the Nextel ad account before losing it in May 2003 to Omnicom Group's TBWA\Chiat\Day inn New York following a review. Mullen's HQ office will assist with interactive and direct marketing chores.

TBWA\C\D was selected in June to handle consumer ads for the newly merged company, and the shop produced the majority of the 'Yes you can" campaign. Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco handles b-to-b work.