Online Exclusive: Account Action

BANK OF AMERICA ISSUES MARKETING RFP

Omnicom and WPP Contacted About Massive Account

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Bank of America, one of Interpublic Group of Cos.' largest accounts, has contacted holding companies, including Omnicom Group and WPP Group, about its massive integrated marketing account, according to executives familiar with the matter.
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Bruce Nelson
The review comes amid speculation that Interpublic’s top executive on the account, Bruce Nelson, is preparing to leave the company. Mr. Nelson, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Interpublic, is said to be renegotiating his role there, raising the possibility that he may be on his way out.

A Bank of America spokeswoman said, "We are and will remain fully committed to the holding company model. Our strong preferred partner arrangement with IPG and its subsidiary companies continues to demonstrate great value to Bank of America and we are pleased that our overall marketing strategies are contributing to our growth.

"Consistent with good business practices," the spokeswoman continued, "it is in our best interests to periodically evaluate the capabilities offered by IPG and other holding companies like WPP and Omnicom."

'Strong strategic partner'
She said, "IPG is a strong strategic partner. We are pleased with the creative work that is currently in the market. Our overall marketing strategies are contributing to our growth."

Interpublic referred calls to Bank of America.

WPP and Omnicom representatives couldn't be reached for comment.

A loss would be a blow to Interpublic, now struggling with accounting problems. It has yet to publish its year-end 2004 financial results or any results from 2005. The company expects to do so by Sept. 30. Earlier this year, General Motors Corp. moved its media-buying account to Publicis Groupe.

Dozens of IPG shops
Executives familiar with the matter say that Bank of America has issued an request for proposals to Omnicom and WPP. Bank of America works with more than one dozen Interpublic agencies, primarily with Draft, R/GA, Jack Morton and its media agency Initiative.

Bank of America last put the account up for review in 2002. Then, Interpublic successfully defended the business.

Earlier this year, Bank of America agreed to acquire MBNA Corp., the largest independent credit-card lender in the world.

Spending
In 2004, Bank of America spent more than $261 million on measured media, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

According to its 10-K filing, Bank of America in 2004 spent $1.35 billion on overall marketing, up 37% from $985 million in 2003, due to "increased advertising for card programs and increased advertising costs in the Northeast," where it acquired FleetBoston Financial Corp. in April 2004.

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