PrimeCo in Talks With 4 Shops

PrimeCo is considering four Chicago shops to handle its $15 million advertising account as it concentrates exclusively on Chicago and some downstate Illinois markets.

“We need an agency that’s right there in Chicago and understands [what’s going on in the city],” said Sondra Dillon, di rector of marketing for the Itasca, Ill.-based personal communications services providers.

The incumbent on the business is The Richards Group in Dallas.

Although it offers nationwide service, PrimeCo has been greatly reduced in size through acquisitions and consolidation in recent months. It is now down to the single Chicago market, as well as several downstate Illinois regions.

The four shops contending for the business have made presentations, and a decision is expected within a month, Dillon said. She declined to name the contenders. Advertising will cover the media spectrum, with TV, print and radio all planned.

The company changed ownership in June 2000, be coming Verizon in most of its 10 markets. Richmond and Houston were sold to other inves tors while PrimeCo in Chicago was ac quired in June by a group of telco inves tors led by Clarity Partners.

PrimeCo here was the only region that kept its name, and the company will continue to use Primetheus, the little pink alien character developed by Richards and seen as a major point of brand recognition, Dillon said.

Marketing is expected to stress local service.

“Customers don’t care where you’re located but when you hit send, they care that they have strong quality and service,” Dillon said. “AT&T and Verizon can be anywhere, we can tailor [our message] right to the Chicago market.”

As a national entity, PrimeCo’s spending reached $60 million in 1997, but was just $30 million last year and $10 million through the first six months of this year, according to figures from CMR.

Dillon confirmed that spending will reach $15 million.

Earlier this fall, Richards picked up the $10 million accounts of Metro PCS, which also is linked to Clarity Partners, the agency said. Several executives at MetroPCS formerly worked at PrimeCo and so were familiar with the Dallas shop.

PrimeCo’s top competitors in the Chicago market include established brands as well as three new names, Verizon, Cingular and Voicestream. PrimeCo’s network is provided by Lucent Technologies.