Topp Telecom Rings Up B-R

Topp Telecom, a relative unknown in the wireless telecommunications field, has enlisted Bernstein-Rein to introduce its Tracfone to a wider audience.

Tracfone, a pre-paid cellular phone service, has as much or more coverage than most of the larger cellular companies, but awareness is not as high for the Miami-based company as for competitors, said John Nohe, B-R’s senior vice president of strategic development.

Billings for the account were not disclosed, but sources indicated it could be as high as $25 million.

“There’s a big job to do to simply build awareness with the right positioning,” Nohe said. The agency is currently determining that positioning for an early 2001 campaign. Possible strategies include a focus on Tracfone’s ability to provide budget control for the consumer, Nohe said.

“They offer a quality of life and freedom that people haven’t been able to have with a traditional wireless phone,” he said.

Consumers use the service by purchasing pre-paid air time cards and using the phones until the time runs out. Tracfones are sold through major retailers such as Kmart, Blockbuster Video, Eckerd drug stores and Radio Shack.

B-R won the account after a review that included PGC in Dallas, CreatAbility in Coral Gables, Fla., and 360 Inc. in Atlanta, said Maurice Contreras, the company’s director of marketing. KN Integer in Atlanta was the incumbent, having landed the account earlier this year.

Contreras was aware of B-R, Kansas City, Mo., from his time as an executive with Blockbuster Video, an agency client. He was also looking for a shop with strong retail experience, Nohe said.

Topp Telecom’s previous agency, The Blum Group, New York, launched a campaign in 1998 to move beyond the company’s “credit-challenged” base. That campaign emphasized Tracfone’s benefits—no age limits, no rejection and no bills—with the tagline, “Get smart. Get Tracfone.”

B-R’s duties will likely include creating television and radio advertising, as well as promotional and direct and database marketing.

“It wouldn’t surprise me to see this [product] used in some kind of incentive program,” Nohe said.