CHICAGO AGENCIES PITCH FTD'S $40 MIL BUSINESS: CLIENT'S SHOP SHIFTS FAIL TO DISCOURAGE 6-7 CONTENDERS

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At least six midwestern agencies in the hunt for the $40 million FTD/Florists' Transworld Delivery account hope they're not viewing the business through rose-colored glasses.

Known as a demanding client, FTD parted ways this month with its fourth agency in seven years, Doner, Southfield, Mich.

A spokeswoman for the Downers Grove, Ill.-based flower marketer confirmed FTD, owned by Perry Capital Investments, is seeking a new ad agency. But she wouldn't identify the six to seven shops she said are being considered. She also declined comment on FTD's break with Doner, its agency of two years, other than to say FTD wants to take its advertising in a new direction.

Doner came up with the TV and print slogan "Some of life's best moments come from FTD."

SHOPS BELIEVED IN THE REVIEW

The competitors are believed to include Ammirati Puris Lintas, Leo Burnett USA, Bozell Worldwide, Cramer-Krasselt, DDB Worldwide and Y&R Advertising. Burnett could not be reached for comment Friday; the other shops declined comment.

A decision is expected by late June.

The agencies involved in the pitch said they were undeterred that FTD is reputed to have a checkered past with agencies.

"Whenever you have that kind of [agency churn] situation, you have to point the finger back at client management because they either don't know how to make a good decision on an agency or they don't know how to manage a relationship. It's one or the other," one contender said.

An FTD spokeswoman disputed that contention, adding that new management is now in place.

"This is a business of hope and optimism," said another agency contender. "There's always an assumption that this time somebody will be better."

Don't count on it, maintains one agency executive who has pitched FTD.

"They misrepresented themselves in their entire pitch process. They misrepresented their billings ; they misrepresented the competition; the nature of the pitch and the nature of the compensation," he said on condition of anonymity.

But another person pitching the account said spending figures are in line with media reports.

FTD 's current account is valued at $40 million

Last year, FTD spent $15.6 million on measured media advertising, up 5% from 1997, excluding online. Most of that spending went to magazines and cable TV, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

COMPETITION HEATS UP

FTD is looking to its new ad agency to boost sales, which fell slightly last year to $161.3 million. Its chief competitor in the $15 billion U.S. floral industry is the younger, more fleet-footed and renamed 1-800-Flowers.com.

The 7-year-old upstart increased revenue 18% last year to $220.6 million.

To compete with online services trying to chip away at its customer base, FTD is spinning off into a separate company its Ftd.com, a 5-year-old enterprise that allows customers to buy flowers through its Web site and toll-free number

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