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Citigroup, the nation's largest financial services company, canceled $70 million to $100 million in upfront buys on hold at the major broadcast TV networks, according to network insiders.

"For a major advertiser like Citigroup to pull almost all-if not all-of its upfront buys, across all dayparts, is very rare, if not unprecedented," said a TV sales executive.

Marketers negotiate prices on buys for the coming fall TV season during the upfront marketplace, held in the spring. After making agreements regarding the terms and conditions of those buys-then taken out of the network's sellable inventory-they are put on hold while the agency media buyers get final approval from their clients.


"After there's a hold," the executive in TV sales said, "the deals are 95% done . . . [even though] the agency might come back and move some spending around, fine-tuning kinds of things."

Media Edge, New York, Citigroup's media buyer, referred calls to the client; Citigroup marketing executives were traveling at press time and couldn't be reached.

Creative agency is Media Edge sibling Y&R Advertising, New York.

"I'm sure over the next few weeks we'll learn what this is all about," another network executive said. "But something like this isn't good for either Citigroup or the Media Edge. We don't like surprises like this.

"What do they think our reaction is going to be when they want to make buys during next year's upfront?"

Sellers said the marketer also was trying to get out of some third-quarter scatter buys considered firm.

Speculation by some network insiders was that Citigroup is refocusing the products and services it wants to advertise, and that it had to wait until these were fully developed before committing ad dollars.

Citigroup was formed in a 1998 merger between Citicorp and Travelers Group. Among its divisions are Citibank, Travelers Insurance and Solomon Smith Barney.


Citibank had been planning a new ad campaign this fall via Y&R. It's not known how that will be affected by the TV time cancellation.

In April, the company broke a corporate campaign co-created by McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, agency for Solomon Smith Barney, and Merkley Newman Harty, New York, the Travelers agency.

The selection of those two shops for the branding effort, instead of Y&R Advertising, caused speculation that Citigroup wanted another agency to assist Y&R on the account. If so, that would be a huge reversal of the controversial

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