Alltel takes its 'Sales Guys' campaign online

LITTLE ROCK, AR: Alltel has expanded its ad campaign that mocks competitors by adding social networking and online media components.

LITTLE ROCK, AR: Alltel has expanded its ad campaign that mocks competitors by adding social networking and online media components.

As the US' fifth-largest national wireless provider, the campaign targets consumers who are looking to switch wireless providers. But it also gives the company a boost among the youth market.

"Because we are fifth largest, we have to be very creative in how we market and what we market," said Lucie Pathmann, Alltel's director of marketing publicity.

The online initiative builds on a campaign launched last fall that depicts four "sales guys" who each represent an Alltel competitor. The sales guys serve as a foil against Alltel's clean-cut and upbeat representative "Chad."

On August 5, Alltel launched a Web site for the foils (www.officialmancave.com ) and a MySpace page (wirelessthugz.com) where characters vent their frustration with Alltel through music videos. The company is also posting its commercials on YouTube.

Alltel has also placed plasma screens in its retail stores with footage intended to give the impression that the "sales guys" are hacking into and interrupting operations at the store, said Wanda Young, director of interactive marketing at Alltel. The "hacking in" effect is also featured on the company's Web site.

"From a brand perspective it's really about engagement," she said.

Young declined to state the budget, but said it includes a "significant" portion of the company's interactive budget. Alltel is working with Taylor PR on the effort.

Even though the campaign has a heavy social-media emphasis, and the sales guys are a team of men accompanied by a bikini-clad poster girl who comes to life, Young said the campaign's appeal reaches across gender and age brackets. But the company will track the campaign to ensure it maintains wide popularity, she added.

For its media push, the company reached out to national titles and industry trades. Ongoing media outreach includes business and consumer press and online media.

"Our strategy is to drive as many people as we can to officialmancave.com," said Joe Flores, senior account supervisor at Taylor.

He praised Alltel's strategy of taking competitors head-on. And with the proliferation of free in-network calling and programs that let users designate certain numbers for anytime minutes, he added that "the competition of who has the most wireless minutes is basically over."

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