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Verizon Wireless Selects Bates

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Bates Southwest has acquired a hefty portion of Verizon Wireless' retail advertising business with its win of the telecom's South Central account.

Billings were not disclosed, but are thought to be comparable to the $50 million projected for the company's Northeastern region.

The account, according to Verizon representative Brenda Raney, encompasses both media buying and creative duties, with the latter including television, print, radio, direct mail and Web-based marketing.

Verizon's South Central area includes Texas and portions of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and New Mexico.

Bates Southwest, headquartered in Houston, previously did retail ads for GTE Wireless in Houston and also handled advertising on an interim basis for Verizon during the course of the review. Verizon was formed earlier this year by the merger of GTE and Bell Atlantic's wireless units, which included the former PrimeCo brand.

The South Central marketing area is one of seven; at least one other region—the Northeast—is also undergoing a review to eliminate agency overlap in the company's combined territories.

"All the regional area offices have their own advertising," said Donna Childress, Verizon vice president of marketing. "The company has thousands of retail locations. Think about retailers like Circuit City, Radio Shack and think of the kinds of advertising they do. That's the kind of thing we need to do."

Other client sources cited Bates' proven track record and its "performance and dedication" on the GTE Wireless business as being determining factors in the decision.

Bates chairman and chief executive officer Jerry Kerr confirmed his agency's selection but declined to comment. Both Kerr and an agency spokesperson stressed that the selection is pending final contract negotiations.

The account becomes one of the largest at the agency, which also handles Chevron Oronite, Veritas DGC and BelmontCorp.