ARNOLD, DDB COOK UP PLAN FOR BIG MAC WORK

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Two agencies ravenous for McDonald's Corp. business are aligning to accommodate the fast-food giant as its co-op business exits Interpublic Group of Cos.

Boston shop Arnold Fortuna Lawner & Cabot and DDB Needham Worldwide, New York, are teaming up to service and house Interpublic's McDonald's account now handled by McCann Universal, a retail unit of McCann-Erickson Worldwide.

The arrangement, still being finalized, calls for Arnold Fortuna to acquire the business and move it into DDB Needham's New York headquarters building, where it will remain separate from DDB Needham operations.

Under such an arrangement, Arnold Fortuna would become McDonald's largest regional agency. The alliance with DDB Needham-one of McDonald's lead national agencies-would create the potential for a combined attack on Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, for the core business.

Both Arnold Fortuna Chairman-CEO Ed Eskandarian and DDB Needham Chairman-CEO Keith Reinhard are known to covet that business. And the two have struck deals before. Last year, DDB Needham sold its Washington, D.C., outpost to Arnold Fortuna.

DDB Needham's Chicago office and Mr. Reinhard, credited with penning McDonald's long-running "You deserve a break today" theme line, lost a chunk of the business to Burnett in the 1980s.

McDonald's co-op work counted for nearly all of McCann Universal's $53 million in billings in 1993. The agency's relationship with McDonald's became tenuous when parent Interpublic acquired Ammirati & Puris and its Burger King Corp. corporate account last month.

Interpublic agency Fahlgren, Parkersburg, W.Va., is still negotiating a management/investor buyback that could involve Mr. Eskandarian.

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