AT&T's decision to go with just two main agencies, in addition to some project assignments-sure to involve fewer than the current 61 incumbent shops-represents the biggest shift of direct billings in history.
Bronner and Wunderman last week were named as the key "strategic partners" for the company's core consumer long-distance account. They will share as much as 75% of the Consumer Communications Services unit's business.
The win was an especially sweet one for Bronner CEO Michael Bronner.
His wife gave birth to their first child-a son, Kristopher Alan-on April 19, after an arduous 17-hour labor. Just 3 hours later, Mr. Bronner hopped a plane to New Jersey to convene with the pitch team before the agency's 8 a.m. presentation.
"The good news is I was going on pure adrenaline," Mr. Bronner said. "I didn't even feel real tiredness.
"It was kind of surrealistic. Several times I would pause and say, `Did I just have a baby 3 hours ago?' I had to pinch myself. The vision is you're going to sit around and beam and smoke cigars. But I was doing a presentation," he said.
The adrenaline seemed to do the trick.
"These two agencies seemed most in line with where we're going and had ideas we wanted to pursue," said George Burnett, general manager of marketing communications at the Consumer Communications unit.
Bronner, already the lead AT&T direct agency, handles the company's "Win back" long-distance campaign. The agency also has calling card, college market and other work, and now gains assignments that will give it as much as half of the total account.
As for Wunderman, that agency has had no AT&T work lately, though sister Young & Rubicam handles the company's international long-distance ads. Wunderman expects to pick up $15 million in revenue for product advertising including the True USA and True Rewards calling plans, handled for years by Saatchi & Saatchi Direct, New York, and on a project basis since December by FCB Direct.
Wunderman's win, when capitalized, will be equivalent to a $100 million account; Bronner's total is somewhat higher.
Other finalists included the New York offices of FCB; Saatchi; Ogilvy & Mather Direct; and Worldwide 1 on 1, a joint venture of N W Ayer and Ross Roy Communications.
Worldwide 1 on 1 gets a "special assignment" based on what it called an "intriguing" idea pitched in its final presentation. FCB Direct keeps creative on AT&T's estimated $50 million direct-response TV account, for which O&M will still provide media planning and buying. O&M also keeps an estimated $45 million overseas account, for the promotion of calls back to the U.S., and specialty agencies will keep foreign-language advertising.
Wunderman's pitch was led by Young & Rubicam Inc. Chairman Alex Kroll, who promised to create a separate, "fully integrated" agency team composed of executives from several Y&R units. For Mr. Kroll, the victory was a vindication of sorts. Despite longtime ties to AT&T, Y&R lost substantial billings to Ayer after FCB became the lead ad agency.
Mr. Burnett said he was impressed by Y&R's ideas for "new ways of servicing [our] business."
Apparently more so than those provided by Mr. Dworin, who helped pitch in his third day as Ayer CEO. Or O&M Chairman Beers, who also made the trek to AT&T's Basking Ridge, N.J., headquarters but not before the agency was directed to shred all pitch documents.
Saatchi President Deborah Newkerk's father died of cancer just four days before that agency's presentation, but she flew in for the pitch after his funeral in upstate New York. Still, Saatchi wound up as the biggest loser among incumbents. AT&T work dominated the $42 million shop, and extensive layoffs are likely.