Billings Estimated at $20 Million

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil ( -- AOL Latin America has chosen WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson to handle its entire account in Latin America.

With the move, the portal, a division of AOL Time Warner, hopes the consolidation of its advertising, direct marketing and other service efforts into one agency will reduce costs, enhance speed of execution, and improve coordination in the implementation of advertising campaigns.

The portal operates in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Puerto Rico.

Executives did not

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comment on the move and billings were not disclosed, though the budget is estimated at $20 million.

Up to seven agencies were invited to make presentations, including Bcom3 Group's Leo Burnett, Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, Omnicom Group's TBWA Worldwide and Artplan, which joined with Interpublic Group of Cos.' FCB Latin America.

Agencies made presentations in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where the company is headquartered. Finalists in the pitch were J. Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett.

The AOL account in Brazil was at DM9DDB for the past two years. AOL also worked with Leo Burnett and Artplan in Brazil. DM9DDB did not take part in the process because it has the account of Telefonica, one of the controllers of Terra Lycos. In Argentina, the account was handled by Lowe, in Mexico by TBWA and in Puerto Rico by Leo Burnett.

Earlier this year, AOLA announced that AOL Time Warner was putting $160 million into the operation. AOLA said it has 1.3 million subscribers in Latin America.