ABC's agency hunt could mean danger for Grey

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ABC is looking for an ad agency to develop a campaign to shore up its flagship newscast "World News Tonight," a search that could extend beyond news and lead to changes in the $35 million network account now at Grey Entertainment, New York.

Alan Cohen, the new exec VP-marketing charged with giving ABC a stronger presence, is expected to re-evaluate the network's relationships with both Grey and a second agency, Charron Schwartz & Partners, before yearend, two ABC executives said.

CHARRON HAS NEWS

Charron Schwartz handles news, including "World News Tonight," while Grey handles all other areas.

COHEN'S INFLUENCE

"It's not so much" the Walt Disney Co. purchase of ABC driving the shift, said one executive familiar with the agency discussions, "as it is the arrival of Alan Cohen" from NBC.

Mr. Cohen was traveling and couldn't be reached; Grey declined to comment. Charron Schwartz President-CEO and Creative Director Ted Charron said he knew nothing about ABC looking for another agency for a "World News Tonight" campaign.

Grey has had the ABC account for two decades, handling creative and media.

HAS USED TELEVEST IN PAST

While head of marketing at NBC, Mr. Cohen used D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles' TeleVest for media buying, with in-house staffers doing most of the network's creative; occasionally, marketing projects were farmed out.

It is a pattern he has already established at ABC. Dryden & Petisi Promotion, Westport, Conn., is working with ABC on a fall prime-time promotion that will involve McDonald's Corp. and General Motors Corp.

NBC CLOSING THE GAP

Though "World News Tonight" has been the No. 1-rated network newscast for seven years, and held that lead for 202 of the last 203 weeks, NBC has been slowly closing the gap in households.

In the last few months, "NBC Nightly News" has come within 0.2 Nielsen rating points of the ABC newscast in households, and has beaten it some weeks in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic.

Copyright July 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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