ERNST & YOUNG OPENS GLOBAL REVIEW: U.S. INCUMBENT GRACE TO PITCH; 10 SHOPS INVITED

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Financial services company Ernst & Young is talking to ad agencies about its global account.

The Big 6 accounting company, facing an increasingly global marketplace and fierce competition, sent out questionnaires to approximately 10 agencies earlier this month, according to executives who received them. They said the marketer was looking to create a cohesive branding effort.

U.S. incumbent Grace & Rothchild, New York, will be involved in the pitch, said one executive with knowledge of the proceedings. Grace & Rothchild referred calls to the client; Ernst & Young did not return calls by press time.

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According to the questionnaire, the marketer is looking for an agency with extensive international business-to-business experience. One executive said Ernst & Young is considering either a single shop or more than one agency, with one handling the U.S. and at least one other overseeing international.

Internet marketing is said to be a significant part of the pitch.

It was not learned if media buying, handled by Grey Advertising, New York, also is in review.

Grey, BBDO Worldwide and Saatchi & Saatchi, all New York, were among agencies that received questionnaires. BBDO has declined to participate; Saatchi and Grey declined to comment.

Ernst & Young spent $1 million on U.S. advertising in 1995 but upped that to $13 million in 1997, said Competitive Media Reporting.

INDUSTRY IN FLUX

Ernst is conducting its review at a time when the accounting and consulting marketplace is in flux. There have been bitter internal struggles at Andersen Worldwide between its consulting and accounting units, while the pending merger between Coopers & Lybrand and Price Waterhouse & Co. would remake the Big 6 into the Big 5.

There also was a failed union between Ernst and KPMG Peat Marwick, which is trying to increase its own branding efforts. In December, KPMG awarded its $12 million to $15 million account to Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York.

Deloitte & Touche Consulting Group launched a campaign this year that targets its rivals' problems. Tierney & Partners, Philadelphia, handles that.

The marketers are "trying to differentiate themselves and give the brand meaning" beyond their image as accounting firms, said Charles Wendel, president of Financial Institutions Consulting.

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