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Amazon.com on hunt for agency; FCB resigns account

Published on .

Amazon.com is considering four shops for a global positioning campaign following a split with its U.S. shop of three-and-a-half years, FCB Worldwide, San Francisco. The review follows the recent hiring by Amazon.com of a new chief marketing officer, Alan Brown, who previously worked at Master Card.

Agencies believed to have been invited into the review include MasterCard agency McCann-Erickson Worldwide, TBWA/Chiat/Day and possibly Ogilvy & Mather, one executive familiar with the situation said. Y&R Advertising was approached but declined to pitch. A fifth invitee is believed to have declined as well.

Amazon.com, which spent $33 million in advertising in 1999, according to Competive Media Reporting, is back on the air this holiday in a half dozen U.S. markets with the Sweatermen, a group of Mitch Miller style singers. Much of Amazon.com's advertising over the years has come not just from its own agency, but from co-op work with other marketers and their shops. For example, Hewlett-Packard this year backed a $10 million-plus effort saluting the changes Amazon.com has made in the way people shop. For the first six months of this year, Amazon has spent only $6 million, primarily online.

Amazon agencies outside of the U.S. will not participate in the review because they are local agencies, said Becky Roberts, director of overseas brand advertising for Amazon. They are HHCL for the U.K., Hakuhodo in Japan, Ailleurs Exactement in France and i-start in Germany. Ms. Roberts said Amazon.com would conduct the review itself and would not hire a consultant. She expects a decision in the first quarter of 2001. She said FCB was offered the opportunity to participate in the review "on the basis of their strong work in the United States," but elected to resign the account.

FCB CEO and President Simon Bolton, said his agency resigned the account over "fundamental disagreements with the direction that Amazon.com was taking in 2001."

Copyright December 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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