Left Field splits with Amazon.com and drugstore.com

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Amazon.com said it mutually agreed with long-time Web shop Left Field, San Francisco, to part. Left Field also said it resigned drugstore.com, ending a relationship with a site closely affiliated with Amazon.com.

Left Field had worked with Amazon, the interactive agency's first account, since October 1996. Left Field said Amazon recruited the agency last fall to help launch drugstore.com, which is backed by Amazon.com.

The parting with the high-profile Amazon and the new pharmacy site was solely the decision of the agency and was not made because the clients had given any indication the business was in trouble, said Kevin Burke, managing partner.

However, Paul Capelli, an Amazon spokesman, said the Web retailer had been studying its needs and then came to the mutual conclusion with Left Field that the two should part.

"We mutually agreed with Left Field that they would no longer be our online agency," Mr. Capelli said.

Mr. Capelli said Amazon is embarking on an interactive review. "We are interested in speaking with interactive agencies right now," he said. "We will be looking at them, we will be meeting them, we will be identifying them. I guess you could call it a review."

Erik Moris, Drugstore.com's senior director of communications, said his company mutually agreed to part with online shop Left Field after hiring Fallon McElligott this month for its offline account. Drugstore.com will hand off most interactive work to Fallon's Duffy Design and Interactive, Minneapolis, while pulling some work in house, Mr. Moris said. Left Field issued a press release announcing it had resigned the two accounts. Despite the clients' high profile, Mr. Burke said the two accounts combined represented less than 10% of Left Field's projected $85 million in 1999 billings.

Mr. Capelli said Amazon's needs have changed since it hired Left Field during the retailer's early days. Mr. Burke said the parting with Amazon stemmed in part from the reduced role the agency was playing as Amazon has stepped up offline advertising, through Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, and moved some Web ad functions in-house. Amazon manages its Web site in-house.

The agency felt boxed in by Amazon's moves beyond books into areas such as consumer electronics and toys, restricting Left Field's ability to pursue other business, Mr. Burke said.

"The role of online advertising [at Amazon] has evolved over time," Mr. Burke said. "The deepness of the relationship isn't the same as it was at the beginning. We got to a point where it just didn't make sense to continue."

Mr. Burke said Left Field has been primarily working with drugstore.com on management of its Web distribution deals, and that the agency resigned the business in part because drugstore.com's close ties with Amazon would have made it difficult to continue.

"We feel that there's a lot of opportunity out there," Mr. Burke said. "We want to go help some other dot-com businesses get going."

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