Cellco Partnership

Author:Kevin Teague
Pages:297-300
 
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180 Washington Valley Road

Bedminster, New Jersey 07921

USA

Telephone: (800) 214-3555

Fax: (908) 306-6927

Web site: www.verizonwireless.com

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? CAMPAIGN
OVERVIEW

Cellco Partnership, which operated under the name Verizon Wireless, was the largest mobile-phone service provider in America during 2002. Rated best by consumers in customer satisfaction, Verizon was spending an estimated $1 billion every 90 days to improve service quality and to expand its coverage "footprint" (the term given to a mobile-phone reception area). Although its smaller competitors, such as Sprint PCS Group and Cingular Wireless LLC, began price wars using lower-priced calling plans, their footprints and sustained-call rates were lacking. Subscribers using Cingular were four times more likely to drop (lose service during) a call than Verizon's customers. Avoiding the price wars completely and rebranding itself as a premium service provider, Verizon launched its "Can You Hear Me Now?" campaign on January 14, 2002.

"Can You Hear Me Now?" was created by Bozell, a New York-based ad agency that operated as part of the Interpublic Group of Companies. The television spots starred actor Paul Marcarelli as a Verizon field tester who dropped in on locations ranging from the outlandish to the mundane. In each spot he asked, "Can you hear me now?" into a mobile phone. After hearing an affirmation, Testman, as Marcarelli's character was dubbed, replied, "Good!" By 2003 Verizon was spending $300 to $400 million annually on the "Can You Hear Me Now?" campaign, with an additional $700 to $800 million on direct mail and in-store promotions. Only 10 percent of the campaign's budget went into print advertising.

Although the "Can You Hear Me Now?" campaign did not receive many advertising awards, it did help establish higher-ground branding for Verizon during intense industry competition. The number of Verizon subscribers increased from 32.5 million at the campaign's launch to 37.5 million in 2003. By the start of 2004 the number of subscribers was 43.8 million, which indicated that quality was indeed a strong selling point for cellphone consumers. Verizon remained the number one wireless provider in America until February 2004, when Cingular purchased AT&T Wireless Services for $41 billion.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Cellco Partnership, doing business under the name Verizon Wireless, formed in 2000 when Bell Atlantic merged with Vodafone, the world's largest mobile-phone service provider. Together the partnership had 32 million subscribers, making Verizon an overnight industry leader. Starting in August of 2000 Verizon Wireless began the largest renaming campaign in history. Print ads featured Verizon employees promising customers that they would receive the same dependable and reliable service they had

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HISTORICAL CONTEXT © Brad Swonetaz/Zefa/Corbis. experienced with Bell Atlantic and Vodafone. The campaign was created by four separate advertising agencies working together: the Lord Group, Burrell Communications, Temerlin McClain, and La Agencia de Orcí & Asociados

After conducting an analysis of its own quality and that of its competition, Verizon realized that its network provided the most dependable coverage in the industry. It quickly positioned itself as the reliable alternative and continued pouring capitol into improving its already reliable network. In 2003 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandated "number portability," allowing subscribers to keep their phone numbers when they changed wireless providers. Soon afterward many new subscribers turned to Verizon.

"We're not the low-cost provider. We're not the most aggressive with promotional deals and headset giveaways," Marvin Davis, vice president of advertising...

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