Bank of America calls consultants

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Bank of America is hiring a consultant to evaluate its relationship with Interpublic Group of Cos., which handles its $180 million advertising account.

The bank sent requests for proposals to a number of marketing industry consultants asking for experience with, among other things, "minimizing costs." The marketer split its ad business between Interpublic's Deutsch and Gotham, both New York, after a holding company review against Omnicom Group last February.

Catherine P. Bessant, chief marketing officer Bank of America said: "I'm thrilled with IPG and the agencies we work with. Part of this is to review our own processes, and we are getting some third-party help to look at the processes at IPG."

An Interpublic spokesman said: "We have a terrific relationship with the Bank of America. Together we're undertaking numerous initiatives to streamline the marketing process and we routinely examine additional options. It's just the way we do business together."

In the letter to consultants dated Sept. 9, Bank of America states that it is looking for an agency that could help it develop ways of evaluating the performance of its marketing partners. Among the 15 partner agencies are interactive shop R/GA, public relations agency Golin/Harris International, and DraftWorldwide, for direct.

The letter also suggests that in agreeing to work with a holding company, Bank of America might not have fully anticipated some of the difficulties of keeping tabs on such a large number of companies.

The author of the letter, Libby LaBorde, a VP-sourcing manager in supply chain management explained the rationale for the search. "Having entered into the new holding company relationship without complete syndicated processes or experience with challenges (or opportunities) the bank would encounter, the objectives of the holding company relationship are: Message consistency ... and a media neutral approach; establish integration; minimize costs; build the brand to one of the most admired in the country and optimize the partnership with IPG."

While the search for a consultant was initiated by the company's procurement department, Ms. Bessant said she was involved in the decision. "I led the effort for us to look for benchmarking." When asked whether the move was aimed at reducing costs, Ms. Bessant said no. "The intent is not to get cost efficiencies. This is about making sure every dollar is working, not about evaluating IPG."

The RFP asks potential consultants, among other things: "Does your company have experience working with agency compensation and incentive programs?"

Ms.LaBorde did not return calls for comment. A number of consultants contacted by Advertising Age said they were not aware of the review and did not, in any case, comment on potential new business.

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