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Packard Bell NEC's NEC Computer Systems Division is expected to move much of its $40 million account in-house, leading to a reduced role -- or possibly no role -- for agency Hampel/Stefanides.

The NEC move would mark the latest sign of an upheaval in direct PC advertising. Direct's top three players -- Dell Computer Corp., Gateway 2000 and Micron Electronics -- all recently have recruited new agencies.

"We're certainly looking at taking some of the work in-house because it's more efficient," said Mike Gold, Packard Bell NEC senior VP-advertising and corporate com-munications.

Among the business that could go in-house are computer-publication media buying and basic creative executions, such as b&w print ads.

NEC also might award some work to a direct-marketing agency.


The marketer would use an ad agency, boutique or free-lancers for such projects as TV production, with a cost structure below what NEC pays Hampel. The agency's San Francisco office now handles all NEC PC advertising except broadcast media, which will stay at Western International Media, West Hollywood, Calif.

Mr. Gold said it's still to be determined if Hampel's cost structure would make it viable to work together on the more limited basis.

"They've got an office in San Francisco to support, and they've got to make some decisions," Mr. Gold said. "They have done a great job and nothing wrong. We are just looking at efficiencies."

The moves being considered by NEC jeopardize the future of Hampel's 24-person San Francisco office, which opening in January 1997 to service the account. Hampel executives weren't available at press time.

The PC unit is Hampel's last piece of NEC business. NEC USA just moved its $5 million to $6 million account to Marsteller from Hampel, both New York. NEC Technologies moved last year from Hampel to Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston.


The changes at NEC's computer division come as it labors to make a success of its move last August into the mail-order PC fray (AA, Aug. 4). That put NEC into direct competition with Dell and Gateway while also creating friction with NEC's computer resellers.

NEC so far has made little headway against the direct PC powerhouses. Mr. Gold said NEC's direct sales are "OK," adding, "We're still fairly new to the business."

Mr. Gold also told Advertising Age that the Packard Bell division maintains a solid relationship with agency M&C Saatchi, New York.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo.

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