Rural Cellular Gets a Little More Country

KSV brings new work to local markets in effort to carve out niche

Rural Cellular Corp., a wireless-services provider that targets small-town America, looks to increase its customer base in rural markets with a national marketing campaign that debuts today from Kelliher Samets Volk.

The work includes print, radio, outdoor, direct, public relations and point-of-purchase. Print ads in the summer-oriented effort feature imagery associated with the season, such as a popsicle and a hot dog.

According to Barbara Ostrander, marketing communications manager at the Alexandria, Minn., client, the work targets “blue-collar families who enjoy small-town life and rural living.

“I think [our customers] like to know that we get them and that we’re talking to them, not Minneapolis, New York or Chicago.”

The company, which has 667,000 retail customers in 14 states in New England, the Midwest, the Pacific Northwest and the South, bought space in small newspapers that include the Bangor Daily News in Maine, The Burlington Free Press in Vermont and The Wenatchee World of Washington state.

One execution features the line, “Sweet deal,” and shows a bright red popsicle alongside a cell phone. Copy reads, “Introducing simple calling plans with monthly access starting at just $20.” The ads retain the tagline “Part of life here,” first seen in TV spots last year.

Spending was undisclosed. The client spent $2 million on advertising last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

As part of the effort, RCC and KSV have created a community- service project called “Hometown Heroes,” which honors local firefighters and emergency workers in areas where RCC has stores. Those workers will be invited to barbecues at RCC stores, where they will receive certificates and a donation from RCC to local fire departments.

Radio and print work also promotes a sweepstakes that will award John Deere tractors to five customers.

“We’re fighting the Verizons of the world … [so] we’re getting as local and as close to the ground as possible,” said Yoram Samets, managing director at the Burlington, Vt., agency.

RCC operates under several brand names, including Unicel, CellularOne, Cellular 2000 and Keypage. The company is trying to carve out a niche in a category dominated by larger competitors, led by Verizon, which claims 32.5 million customers, and Cingular, with 22 million.

RCC may have an uphill battle in its efforts to compete with larger players, said Pat D’Amico, founding partner of Boston ad consultancy Psynchronous Communications.

“A localized PR and promotion-driven strategy can go only so far in affecting customer acquisition,” D’Amico said. “At the end of the day, RCC will have to deliver the goods on network scope and seamlessness, quality of service and simple, low rates.”

KSV won the consolidated RCC account two years ago. About six months earlier, RCC had acquired KSV client Atlantic Cellular, which the agency had worked with for more than a decade.