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DDB Needham Worldwide has won back a portion of the $25 million in Amtrak National Rail Passenger Corp. advertising it lost during a 1996 review.

At that time, Ammirati Puris Lintas emerged with the majority of the rail service's ad spending.

Amtrak is returning its corporate branding assignment to DDB Needham, New York.The agency had managed the estimated $40 million account until it lost the corporate and Intercity portions-estimated at $25 million-to New York-based Ammirati.


The corporate assignment is expected to add about $14 million to $15 million in spending DDB Needham already handles for Amtrak's Northeast (including Metroliner) and West Coast operations.

The agency shift may be related to the departure of Robert Wherman, Amtrak's VP-passenger sales and marketing. Richard Donnelly, assistant VP-passenger marketing, who had worked on Metroliner and is close to DDB Needham, succeeded Mr. Wherman.

Executives close to the corporate account minimized Ammirati's loss by saying that piece of the business, which in 1996 was believed to represent $8 million in spending, was virtually inactive. But with a renewed emphasis on national branding by Amtrak, expenditures are expected to almost double this year.

Amtrak invested $33.4 million in measured media last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting, $7 million less than the $40 million projected spending figure discussed at the time of the 1996 agency review.

The shift comes on the heels of a review for a database-marketing assignment. Ammirati declined to accept the direct marketing work, according to one executive. Epsilon, Burlington, Mass., has handled previous direct assignments.

Amtrak adds to Ammirati's account losses in the past year; it resigned or forfeited an estimated $127 million in spending from other clients.


Early this month, the agency resigned the $80 million creative portion of its MasterCard International account. Ammirati also parted ways with its $15 million Hillshire Farm & Kahn's business earlier. Last October, the agency resigned a $7 million Sara Lee Bakery frozen baked goods account, and earlier last year resigned the $25 million Florida Department of Citrus account-only five months after winning the assignment.

On the plus side, Ammirati added $25 million in billings from Van den Bergh Foods in March 1996 and $10 million from Labatt USA last October, and won Enron business.

It also picked up consulting work for General Motors Corp.

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