OMNICOM WINS $600 MILLION BANK OF AMERICA REVIEW

Account Loss Is Another Blow to Interpublic

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Bank of America has moved its $600 million marketing account to Omnicom Group, the marketer said today.
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Interpublic setback
Omnicom's win is yet another setback for Interpublic Group of Cos. The account had been handled by a group of about 15 Interpublic agencies that handles everything from creative, media buying and planning and direct marketing to PR and experiential marketing. The shops that worked on the account include Draft Worldwide, Initiative Worldwide, Jack Morton and MWW Group.

"The Bank of America brand is one of our strongest assets. The company continues to grow, expanding our brand promise globally to new markets and new customers," Cathy Bessant, global chief marketing officer for Bank of America, said in a statement. "We are delighted that Omnicom will be our partner as we grow our company. This decision is an important step in further building our brand strength and aligning marketing efforts with our work to deepen customer relationships."

Quick review
The decision concludes a quick review by BofA, which quietly contacted WPP Group and Omnicom just a couple months ago. It’s also the end of a summer of discontent for Interpublic and the executives who handled the BofA account, namely Bruce Nelson, the account leader and Interpublic CMO who said publicly that Interpublic wasn’t committed to the holding-company model.

To win what is by far the biggest review of the year, Omnicom created a pitch team that included executives from eight agencies: BBDO Worldwide, OMD Worldwide, Organic, customer relationship marketing agency Javelin, internal communications shop Live Technology, Hispanic agency Cultura, branded entertainment agency Radiate Group and promotional agency TPN. The pitch team was known as Team Phoenix -- a reference to the mythical bird that rose from the ashes and a nod to Omnicom's 2002 run at the marketer's business, which ended in a loss to Interpublic.

Susan Smith Ellis
The account will be overseen by an eight-member team from those agencies and led by Omnicom Executive Vice President Susan Smith Ellis, who also ran the pitch. Some executives on the team will be charged with oversight of BofA's different business segments and the work will be executed through these agencies and other Omnicom properties. It was unclear who the other members will be or whether the team will be named.

In its own statement, Interpublic said the transition of the business could take as long as six months. A BofA spokesman said: "The assignment will commence immediately with Omnicom. Most of the business will transition by mid-December."

Despite repeated public statements that the model it has established at Interpublic has been successful, executives familiar with the situation said that there some disagreement within BofA about whether it was appropriate to remain married to it.

Mr. Nelson was known to be close with BofA CMO Cathy Bessant, whose place in the reporting structure there was changed. As part of a recent reorganization, she reports to Liam McGee, president of global consumer banking and small business, instead of CEO Kenneth Lewis as in the past.

Interpublic CEO worked pitch
Despite the discord, executives from Interpublic’s Draft and Jack Morton, as well as Interpublic Chairman-CEO Michael Roth, labored to save the account. Omnicom was heavily favored by industry oddsmakers throughout the review, despite WPP’s prior success in winning holding company reviews, like those of HSBC and Samsung.

A number of factors led to the review, including the personality issues, some feeling that the creative could be better, and financial issues at Interpublic. Because of bookkeeping problems, Interpublic has yet to file full-year financial reports for 2004 or for the first and second quarters of this year. The company has said it will report by Sept. 30.

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