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Ads feature TV/film star Dylan McDermott

Cellular South pioneering new advertising plan

JACKSON – On Super Bowl Sunday, Jackson-based Cellular South kicked off an advertising campaign with the help of someone tall, dark and handsome.

Dylan McDer-mott, 38, star of ABC’s “The Practice,” was hired by Cellular South, a leading re-gional wireless pro-vider in the Southeast, to launch a new multi-media campaign: “When you’re on, you’re on.”

“The television and radio commercials in this campaign are aimed to position Cellular South as the wireless provider for people who need to be reached anytime, anywhere,” said Jana Ray, Cellular South advertising and marketing manager.

The television spots started in Cellular South markets on Jan. 28th during Super Bowl XXXV. Radio spots are scheduled to begin in early February.

“The company’s new brand campaign addresses common issues for people who need to be reached, highlighting how Cellular South’s plans, tower network, coverage area and phones are designed specifically for this segment,” said Ray.

“Market research indicates that consumers are wary about leaving their wireless phones turned on because of the fear of incurring exorbitant costs for airtime,” she said. “With our new Free Incoming Calls plan, it’s OK to turn on your cellular phone and leave it on, because all incoming calls within Cellular South’s home area, which currently includes all of Mississippi, Mobile, Ala., and the surrounding area, and Pensacola, Fla., are free – permanently – and cellular phone users don’t have to worry about large monthly wireless bills.”

The Free Incoming Calls plan distinguishes Cellular South as the only telecommunications company in the South to offer such a plan on a permanent basis, said Ray, in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where production was wrapping up on the three television spots produced with McDermott.

All three TV spots are set in a cozy loft-style home, with McDermott talking candidly to viewers, promoting the benefits of Cellular South over any other provider. In one spot, he’s clad in a black turtleneck. In another, he’s wearing a blue button-down shirt that matches his eyes, and in the third spot, he’s donning an ochre shirt with a brown suit, said Ray, who selected the garments.

“In the ads, Dylan comes across as very charming,” she said. “It’s a very beautiful production done by the same director who has worked with (musician) Sting, and has done several music videos and TV commercials, all with a very nice flow.”

Landing McDermott as a spokesperson took nearly a year, Ray said.

“We hired an agent to work on our behalf to recruit a celebrity we felt personified the brand we wanted to create, and to be consistent with the brand we had already established,” she said. “We wanted to move to a different level, and we’re confident Dylan will help us do that.”

McDermott’s charismatic appeal has long fared well in the South. In 1989, his first noticeable role was playing opposite then little-known Julia Roberts in “Steel Magnolias.” In 1990, he was briefly engaged to Roberts, but the two split amicably and he later married fellow actress Shiva Afshar, with whom he has a four-year-old daughter. His father, a bartender and bar owner, and his stepmother, a playwright, raised McDermott in New York, after his mother died when he was very young.

“We were wrapping up the TV shoot and Dylan said, ‘Doing this makes me long for the South,’” Ray said.

Last year, Cellular South invested $60 million by adding 170 towers to its network in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. This year, the company will continue its aggressive network expansion plan by adding towers in existing markets and through network build outs in Memphis and Jackson, Tenn., and Destin and Fort Walton, Fla.

Cellular South is licensed to provide wireless service in five southeastern states, totaling a population of over 5.8 million. The company, which was established in June 1988 with an initial launch of wireless service on the Gulf Coast, employs approximately 650 people and has more than 65 retail locations. Cellular South was named the sole recipient of the 1999 Blue Chip Enterprise Award for Mississippi and was the first Mississippi telecommunications company to receive the Mississippi Quality Award for Excellence.

“We are confident that our message – ‘When you’re on, you’re on.’ – clearly communicates that our customers are important, both to Cellular South and to the people who need to reach them,” Ray said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com or (601) 853-3967.


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