ERNST & YOUNG NEARING CHOICE ON $13 MIL ACC'T COMPANY CHIEF EYES SPEC WORK OF DMB&B, DDB NEEDHAM

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A decision in the review for Ernst & Young's $13 million account is expected to come down as early as this week, with D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, New York, said to have the upper hand at press time.

The final decision will depend on the reaction of Ernst Chairman Phillip A. Laskawy.

REVIEWING WORK

Although executives close to the pitch said DMB&B's creative and strategy-along with the strategic knowledge of Global Marketing Director and Chief Branding Officer Susan Gianinno-have won over the review committee, the decision will not be made until Mr. Laskawy and other top managers review work that included spec creative.

DDB Needham Worldwide is the other finalist.

Both agencies declined comment and referred calls to Ernst & Young.

Patrice Ingrassia, Ernst director of public relations and advertising, said senior management would review the work this week and a decision likely would come at the end of the week. She declined to identify a front-runner.

ECHOES OF MERRILL LYNCH

This scenario is very similar to the drawn-out Merrill Lynch & Co. review, in which a final choice came down to either DMB&B or J. Walter Thompson Co. Ms. Gianinno, who had experience working on the Andersen Consulting business while at Y&R Advertising, was said to have won Merrill Lynch's favor, but instead JWT won after a final evaluation in which Merrill Lynch CEO David Komansky was said to have had much input.

For Ernst & Young, DDB Needham's creative is said to be more visual than copy-heavy, with a theme about the company teaming with its clients. One executive close to the agency said that concept may have worked well with Ernst's consulting side but the marketer may have seen some difficulties in translating it to the tax and audit services.

`FRESH' WORK

An executive close to DMB&B deemed that agency's work as "fresh."

A win of the business would be big for DMB&B following its losing out in the Merrill Lynch pitch. The agency also lost two large accounts, SBC Communications and Gateway, in the past year.

Ernst launched its review in April with about 10 agencies, including incumbent Grace & Rothchild.

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