PricewaterhouseCoopers prefaces split with interim ads

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PricewaterhouseCoopers, the world's largest accounting firm, is running an interim campaign as it splits its traditional accounting business from its lucrative consulting arm.

About 13 text-heavy advertorials will run in financial newspapers through the beginning of May, explaining why the 1997 union of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand will not endure. The first ad, a full-page explanation of the decision, broke in late February in The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. Another 10 or 12 print ads from Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopolous, New York, start in mid-March. The first one was rushed into place to coincide with the company's Feb. 17 announcement that it would reorganize.

EFFORT POSTPONED

This new ad strategy is running in place of a campaign that would provide "stronger case [study] identification, more compelling photography and more vibrant color usage, greater ethno-cultural representation, and a better link between print and TV executions," according to an internal memo obtained by Advertising Age. It was to focus on the company's individual business units -- such as audit, tax and management consulting -- but to use a unified look.

Now indefinitely postponed, the effort was to detail the global problems that PricewaterhouseCoopers helps clients solve, and then direct potential clients to its Web site (pwcglobal.com) for case studies and related news, said Chuck Kushell, president of Hill Holliday.

Ads for the company's first campaign, a branding effort that broke shortly after the merger was complete in July 1997, all carried the "Join us. Together we can change the world" tagline. The advertorial campaign running now will be seen in international financial newspapers, while the print-only branding effort will run abroad. The ads will continue to carry the "Join us" tag for the immediate future, Mr. Kushell said.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION

Hill Holliday handles global creative and U.S. media buying; McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, handles media outside the U.S. as well as regional implementation of the branding work, Mr. Kushell said. McCann was brought on late last year when the merger of Ammirati Puris Lintas and Lowe Group created a conflict. Lowe was the agency of record for KPMG Peat Marwick.

Price Waterhouse Cooper's current ad spending is estimated at $30 million to $40 million worldwide, but that could grow to $60 million once the divorce is final.

Hill Holliday and McCann will continue to do advertising for both the regulated and non-regulated sides of the company's business until the breakup is approved by the Securities & Exchange Commission later this year.

It's uncertain if the Interpublic Group of Cos. agencies will continue to work on the consulting side after splitting from the audit, tax and business advisory units. The division is meant to satisfy regulators concerned about potential conflicts of interest.

Contributing: Mercedes M. Cardona, Beth Snyder Bulik.

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