YAHOO! DROPS BLACK ROCKET AD AGENCY

U.S. Account Shifted to New WPP Unit Headed by Former OgilvyOne Executive

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Internet giant Yahoo! has ended its relationship with Havas' Black Rocket, part of Euro RSCG Worldwide, according to the online marketer.
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The company said it is shifting its U.S. advertising account to Soho Square, New York, a newly created WPP Group entity headed by Elizabeth Talerman, a former OgilvyOne executive who worked on the IBM Corp. account.

'Extensive resources'
In a statement, Yahoo! said Soho Square will provide it with "extensive resources from WPP's more than 90 businesses."

Cammie Dunaway, Yahoo!'s chief marketing officer who has been on the job since June, said her company will be Soho Square's first client. She declined to identify the other WPP units that will be involved in the project.

Yahoo!'s statement said Soho Square will coordinate strategic planning, integrated online and offline campaigns, and media planning and buying for the Yahoo! account.

$41.6 million in 2002
Ms. Dunaway also declined to specify billings for the U.S. or global ad account. According to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, Yahoo! spent $41.6 million in 2002 in measured media in the U.S.

Yahoo! in June had denied conducting a branding review that involved WPP's Y&R Advertising, New York, which was knocked out of the search.

Ogilvy denial
A spokeswoman for WPP's Ogilvy & Mather, which was also in that review, today denied the agency has won Yahoo! work. Ogilvy's exact relationship with Soho Square is not known.

During the review, Oglivy and Black Rocket were asked to present new work for Yahoo! and for Yahoo's Hot Jobs, according to executives close to the situation.

Ms. Dunaway said, "Ogilvy & Mather executives will not be heading up" the new work, but that Ms. Talerman will be.

Start fresh
Executives said Yahoo! informed Black Rocket its creative work was exceptional but that it was ultimately eliminated due to management's desire to simply start afresh with a new agency.

John Yost, a partner at Black Rocket, said the agency, which has 25 employees, over the years has been blocked from pitching business in many categories due to its Yahoo! account.

News of the loss raised concerns about the agency business in the battered San Francisco market. "It's not good news when the West Coast-based big boys go to New York for their ad services," said John Geoghegan, president of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill Holliday, San Francisco.

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Alice Z. Cuneo contributed to this report.

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