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
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.