Focus resigns Qwest due to stalled spending

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After a seven-month roller-coaster ride with Qwest Communications, Omnicom Group's Focus Agency, Dallas, finally called it quits on the telecom account.

The resignation came just days after sister agency DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago, won the estimated $60 million to $70 million U S West account. DDB Needham's Dallas office also handles start-up telecom competitor Level 3 Communications.

DEAL IN DALLAS

When the Dallas office won Level 3, during the middle of the U S West review, the agency lobbied U S West to stay in the review, insisting the separate offices constituted no conflict. U S West obviously agreed, and Level 3 also has said it has no problem with the situation.

Focus had been handling the consumer assignment for Qwest, with Bright Sun Consulting, New York, responsible for corporate branding and strategy. A Qwest spokeswoman said the consumer work hasn't been reassigned and that executives were reviewing future ad strategy.

Focus' experiences with Qwest included creating TV spots that were pulled just before airing; questions with Bright Sun over exact duties; and a wait while Qwest tried to absorb LCI International following that acquisition. The account had been estimated at $50 million, but Focus said that amount of spending never materialized.

"Ultimately, we decided we had passed up a lot of opportunities to stay with them and we decided it was best to stop passing up those opportunities," said Focus CEO Mark Miller.

POTENTIAL CLIENTS

Mr. Miller said Focus is already talking to some other potential telecom clients. Also, Focus recently won the $20 million Shell Energy Services account.

Ray Gillette, DDB Needham managing partner and its president of integrated services, said the agency will set up a separate unit called Team U S West to handle the western telco.

While he said he wasn't sure how large that unit will be, he said about 30 people worked on the pitch.

The agency beat out Bozell Worldwide, Seattle; and Campbell Mithun Esty and Martin/Williams, both Minneapolis. Incumbent N.W. Ayer & Partners, New York, had declined to participate.

Level 3, meanwhile, is expected to launch its first campaign next spring. Spending estimates have varied widely, from $30 million to more than $100 million.

Contributing: Laura Petrecca.

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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