AT&T Talks to 4 Shops to Give a Makeover

Crispin, Mother, Venables Bell, Butler Shine Charged With Giving Search Site a Personality

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NEW YORK ( -- AT&T is planning a much-needed makeover of its online local-search platform,, and is in the process of hiring a creative hotshop to help.

MDC Partners' Crispin Porter & Bogusky and three independent shops -- Mother, New York; Venables Bell & Partners; and Butler Shine Stern & Partners -- are the finalists in a review for the business, according to executives familiar with the matter.

AT&T's creative agency for the, GSD&M Idea City, was invited to defend the business, but the Austin, Texas-based shop declined. GSD&M is left with only a sliver of AT&T's creative, direct-TV marketing duties for the brand. AT&T's lead media agency, WPP's Mediaedge:cia, isn't part of the review, which is said to be led by New York-based consultant Source Martin.

Representatives for Source Martin couldn't be immediately reached, and all the agencies either didn't return requests for comment by press time or referred calls to the marketer. AT&T didn't get back by deadline.

The brief is to rebrand and launch this summer and make it a major player in local search. To do that, AT&T is asking the quartet of agencies pitching the account to give the site not only better functionality but also a personality to make consumers want to go there over places such as Google, Yelp, Yahoo Local and Bing. A tall order, no doubt.

The review is expected to be completed in April, and the winning agency will be responsible for digital creative duties and some yet-to-be determined offline work.

The pitch is being led in part by new AT&T marketer Esther Lee. Ms. Lee joined the wireless provider in June 2009 after leading Euro RSCG North America. Before that, she owned an agency with Deutsch, New York top creative Greg Dinoto and had a stint as Coca-Cola's chief creative officer.

AT&T ranks as the third largest national advertiser, according to Ad Age's DataCenter, with an ad budget of more than $3 billion. For the past few years it has devoted about $25 million a year to and is expected to double the figure going forward.

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