Citibank said to be shopping around

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Citigroup has contacted advertising agencies about an undisclosed assignment for Citibank, according to several executives close to the situation.

Young & Rubicam currently handles the entire $500 million account.

Several executives speculated that a full review is likely. Others said the bank may be looking to redivide the behemoth account that was consolidated three years ago.

ROSTER SHOPS CONTACTED

Citigroup General Manager-Global Marketing Anne McDonald is said to have quietly contacted several agencies. But Ms. McDonald denied that, saying there have been no meetings and no changes to the roster. Y&R declined comment.

Among those agencies believed to have been contacted are Citigroup roster shops. The bank's roster includes McCann-Erickson Worldwide, agency for the Salomon Smith Barney unit, and Merkley Newman Harty, agency for Travelers Group; both shops are based in New York. McCann and Merkley declined comment.

Citibank consolidated the account -- which had been split among FCB Worldwide, J. Walter Thompson USA and Lowe Lintas & Partners Worldwide -- at Y&R in 1997. But since Y&R won the consolidation there have been several high-level marketing management departures at Citibank, including those of Exec VP-Global Consumer Business Bill Campbell and VP-Global Marketing Brian Ruder. Both had ties to Y&R.

MORE CUTS POSSIBLE

Citibank significantly reduced the size of its marketing department from about 60 employees down to about 15 a few months ago, according to an executive with knowledge of the situation. The remaining Citibank marketing department may be facing a further shake-up.

Citigroup, created by the merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group in 1998, is the largest financial services company in the U.S., with more than $669 billion in assets.

Citigroup Chairman and Co-CEO John S. Reed will retire in April, leaving Sanford Weill in charge as sole chairman-CEO. Some speculated that may be the reason for the marketing shake-ups and agency contacts.

The company introduced a corporate campaign in April 1999 co-created by McCann and Merkley. The selection of those agencies for the branding effort, instead of Y&R Advertising, sparked speculation that Citigroup wanted another agency to assist Y&R on the account. Y&R's current contract with Citibank is in effect through the end of August.

Contributing: Mercedes M. Cardona

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