CAMPAIGNS: Safety issue PR - Cell phone safety gets driven home

Client: US Cellular (Chicago)

PR Team: Cushman/Amberg (Chicago)

Campaign: Wireless Road Rules

Time Frame: February 26 and ongoing

Budget: dollars 100,000 for the first year

Legislation concerning the use of cellular phones while driving is

pending in 36 states. Proposed limits range from enforcing the use of

hands-free devices all the way to a total ban on the practice. As the

issue has gained momentum in the media and in public policy, US Cellular

found itself increasingly under pressure to take a position. The company

asked Cushman/Amberg, its agency of record since 1998, to help develop a

companywide stance and accompanying program.


US Cellular operates in 25 states. One of the challenges in developing

an approach was the wide range of legislative measures being debated

across the country. 'Legislation changes on a daily basis,' says

Christie Zielinski, Cushman account supervisor. 'So if we took a

particular stance on the whole issue it would have to be something we

could be flexible with down the road.'

The agency worked to devise a program that would still be relevant, even

if a national ban on cell phone use in cars was instituted. Rather than

targeting legislators, the campaign would focus on showing drivers how

to avoid problems. To ensure the program's relevance in each market, the

team studied each region's pending laws.

Three primary audiences were identified: regional media, because as a

regional operation US Cellular must demonstrate concern for the issue on

a local level; safety organizations, including state highway patrols and

drivers-education schools, because they lend credibility to the campaign

in the eyes of consumers; and, most importantly, customers. 'They are

the ones that can really impact the laws by showing there are ways of

using phones safely in your car,' Zielinski says.


The campaign was launched on February 26, 2000. The PR team created the

Wireless Road Rules, a list of sensible tips for ensuring safe driving,

free from distractions. These include points like 'End a phone call if

traffic becomes heavy or road conditions become hazardous' and 'Never

take notes or look up phone numbers while driving.' These served as the

cornerstone of the campaign and were used over and over again in varying


A media kit was prepared containing the rules and an update on pending

legislation. Letters to the editor were sent to the local papers in the

regional markets. A series of PSAs for local radio was prepared, each

focusing on a different item from the rules. Point-of-sale brochures and

in-store posters were created for US Cellular retail outlets, and

billing inserts were also sent to customers.

In areas where partnerships with safety organizations were formed, such

as Roanoke, VA, the campaign was launched with a press conference. In

other markets, the launch was managed through straight media



The state of Florida, Roanoke, VA and Tulsa, OK have been the most

successful markets for the campaign so far. Tallahassee stations

WTXL-ABC and WCTV-CBS carried the story on all their evening broadcasts

and the Florida bureau of National Public Radio carried a piece on the

rules. The Florida News Channel aired a segment on the story for two

consecutive days.

In Tulsa, the story was carried primarily through the print media,

including the Tulsa Business Journal and the Tulsa Free Press.

Virginia NPR, WSLS-NBC (Roanoke) and WVIR-NBC (Charlottesville) covered

the story, with PSAs running on 15 local radio stations. When

interviewed by the local Roanoke papers, including The Roanoke Times,

one state police official praised the program.


US Cellular intends to continue running the program as long as the

safety issue remains relevant to consumers and legislators. Plans are

also under way to add an etiquette component to coincide with summer

vacations - when more people than ever before are expected to carry

cellular phones with them.

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