QWEST ABRUPTLY DROPS DDB WORLDWIDE

$100 Million Account Shifted to FCB

By Published on .

CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Qwest Communications today confirmed it has changed agencies on the estimated $100 million account it awarded in April to Omnicom Group's DDB Worldwide.

The telecom giant said it moved the account to Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote, Cone & Belding Worldwide, New York. FCB was the runner-up in Qwest's earlier review. Qwest would not comment on the size of the account.

A falling out?
A report in today's Chicago Tribune suggested that Qwest and DDB had a falling out over statements DDB made to media outlets about Qwest's financial stability. Qwest is currently the subject of accounting investigations by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department. Quest today announced a $1.1 billion loss as it restated several years' worth of financial results.

Qwest spokeswoman Kate Varden said she has no knowledge of that issue and was not aware of any internal memos that dealt with the matter.

Ms. Varden said FCB was chosen for

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its previous experience in the industry.

FCB's qualifications
"This change makes sense in that the company is taking a much more customer-focused, benefits-driven approach to advertising," Ms. Varden said. "We did a comprehensive review in April and we were well aware of FCB's qualifcations and capabilities. ... We're gearing up for our re-entry into long distance."

FCB Chairman-CEO Brendan Ryan and New York President Jeff Tarakajian spent two days in Denver earlier this week wrapping up the account shift.

"I didn't think it was a clear-cut victory for [DDB] a few months ago," Mr. Tarakajian said. "I thought we were a close second, and we had many people at Qwest who did select us during the [review] process."

It is unclear whether DDB will need to cut staff in the wake of the move, although speculation had been circulating around the Chicago ad community that the shop was planning a significant layoff.

DDB had earlier denied the rumors and referred calls to Qwest.

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