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Boost Mobile targets thrifty prepaid subscribers with new campaign

Boost Mobile, Sprint's wholly owned prepaid wireless carrier, has launched a new ad campaign that rails against "abuses"suffered by mobile subscribers even as it moves beyond its urban youth market to price-conscious consumers.

The campaign, from ad agency 180LA, employs humor to reposition Boost as a carrier that has no unpleasant surprises -- activation fees, overage charges and voicemail and roaming costs. The multichannel marketing push comes soon after Boost launched its Monthly Unlimited plan for a flat $50.

"We want to position Boost as the solution to all those ills in the wireless space,"said Caralene Robinson, director of marketing services at Boost, Irvine, CA.

Titled "Unwronged,"the campaign takes on Boost prepaid rivals MetroPCS and Cricket with ads that highlight their shortcomings and the supposed subsequent negative effect on consumers.

Unlike its competitors, Boost points out in its ads that its customers will not suffer hidden fees, shoddy networks, contracts, mediocre handsets and credit checks.

The Unwronged theme rings clear throughout, showing all "wrong"situations. For example, one ad shows pigs eating ham.

Boost has taken an ambitious media buy, aided by media shop Mindshare. The plan calls for national and local television commercials, local radio spots, bus shelters, billboards, national print media and online ads.

TV spots began airing yesterday on 10 networks and cable TV stations. The network buy comprised ABC, Fox and NBC. CBS did not offer favorable rates, so it was not chosen.

Talk is cheap
Boost has 4 million pay-as-you-go subscribers. The brand typically targeted the younger, urban customer, aligned with hip-hop and extreme sporting events.

Now, thanks to the slow economy, the carrier wants to reach out to value-conscious mobile consumers suffering the pinch.

The Monthly Unlimited plan dovetails with that new focus. The all-inclusive prepaid service comes with two new phones, the Motorola i290 for entry-level customers and the Motorola i9 for high-end subscribers.

In addition, the Monthly Unlimited plan offers unlimited anytime nationwide talk, text and multimedia messaging, mobile Web and Walkie-Talkie services nationwide. Such inclusive packages may seem attractive to consumers worried about their jobs, homes and health.

"From a media and advertising perspective, we're broadening our audience without alienating our core users,"Ms. Robinson said.

"The combination of the ad campaign plus our Monthly Unlimited offer will no doubt allow us to capture more share in the prepaid category,"she said.

Boost seems to be following parent Sprint's philosophy in offering a flat-rate plan.

Sprint, which is hemorrhaging subscribers at an alarming rate, offers an all-you-can-eat voice and data plan called Simply Everything for $99.99. Yesterday it introduced a flat-rate service including mobile broadband for laptops for $149.99 -- a savings of $599 per year versus comparable AT&T and Verizon Wireless plans.

The Boost makeover is defined by a clear value-proposition message that is as straight-talking in its approach as it is pugnacious.

Ms. Robinson declined to disclose the ad budget for the Unwronged campaign.

But the executive said Boost was spending significant launch dollars as opposed to a media spend dedicated to pushing mere brand extensions, offers or added services.

"For us what it presents is the opportunity to remake the prepaid category and the Boost opportunity within that category,"Ms. Robinson said.

"We saw an opportunity to really capture a broader share in the prepaid space,"she said.