Ketchum to be agency of record for Bell South, SBC

ATLANTA: Ketchum has been named agency of record for the newly combined wireless venture of BellSouth and SBC Communications, set to be the second largest wireless carrier in the US.

ATLANTA: Ketchum has been named agency of record for the newly combined wireless venture of BellSouth and SBC Communications, set to be the second largest wireless carrier in the US.

ATLANTA: Ketchum has been named agency of record for the newly combined wireless venture of BellSouth and SBC Communications, set to be the second largest wireless carrier in the US.

Several large agencies were considered before the final agency selection was made. 'The criteria for us was a national firm with national capabilities,' said Larry Solomon, SBC's VP of corporate communication. He also cited the fact that Ketchum had never worked for either of the two companies as a major advantage. 'We wanted a neutral third party.'

BellSouth's agency of record is GCI Group, and SBC's agency is Fleishman-Hillard.

Ketchum will be handling media relations primarily, but its responsibilities will extend to employee communications, executive support and community affairs. The account will be managed from the agency's Atlanta office, where the new company will be based.

Ketchum also works for Nokia and IBM. Doug Brewer, associate director of Ketchum's Atlanta office, said knowledge of the wireless market was a key factor in the agency's favor.

'The primary emphasis here in the short term is getting the brand established,' Brewer said. 'This is going to be one of the biggest brands in the country.'

The new name and corporate identity will be introduced within the next few weeks.

In April, BellSouth and SBC announced plans to merge their wireless operations.

Verizon, the company formed from the merger of Bell Atlantic and GTE, is the country's largest wireless service provider.

The BellSouth/SBC merger is still pending regulatory approval from the FCC. In late August, the Justice Department issued the first round of clearance to the joint venture.

The new company is expected to service over 18 million customers in 34 states. One enduring issue the companies will have to address is overlap in the Indianapolis, New Orleans and Los Angeles markets.

BellSouth, based in Atlanta, operates in 18 countries worldwide and provides telecommunications services for 37 million customers.



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