In review: Ad game resumes

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The agency review deep freeze is beginning to show signs of a thaw.

Big names from Procter & Gamble Co. and Ralston Purina Co. to ChevronTexaco Corp. are signaling early stages of reassessing their advertising agency assignments.

"Clearly, business is not getting the results they want, and they are going to start thinking about agencies," said Bob Wolf, managing partner and CEO of Bob Wolf Partners/TPG, Los Angeles. Mr. Wolf, who is consultant on the $72 million Boeing Co. review, expects to see more activity starting in the first quarter of next year.

Marketers "are scrutinizing everything [including] agencies [and] how they manage their media investments," said Catherine Bension, president, Select Resources International, West Hollywood, Calif.

Some of the account activity may be the result of the normal seasonal changes. In the beginning of the year, marketers were sitting tight to see what would happen to the economy. In summer, vacations often interfere with review calls. By fall, marketers were stopped in their tracks by the terrorist attacks. Now, however, marketers have a handle on the situation and have begun preparing for next year.

But it's mostly musical chairs, not new accounts or new budgets. A lot of the work involves consolidations, often after mergers, or attempts to tighten ad spending or cut agency fees.

Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown found account wins in the first half of October were $1.5 billion. That was up sharply from $1 billion for September, which was the lowest level the brokerage has tracked this year. However, most of the October activity-more than $800 million-was related to account consolidations by Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo. Only $300 million was new accounts, the brokerage said.

Mr. Wolf believes that while clients are looking to save money, many reviews are prompted by a desire for "more effective solutions."

In the package-goods arena, Purina is looking for new creative for Purina O.N.E. to compete against P&G's superpremium Iams brand. The move comes as Nestle prepares to acquire Purina.

Some agencies also appear to be gearing up for what may at some point turn into one of the biggest prizes in package-goods: Clairol, which P&G is acquiring.

Conglomerate Tyco International, meanwhile, has been meeting with agencies for an "expanded" global corporate branding assignment.

In fast-food, Diageo's Burger King is meeting with agencies, and smaller players, such as Carlson Restaurants Worldwide's T.G.I. Friday's has just launched a review.

Toymaker Lego Group is said to be reviewing advertising.

Media reviews have been the favorite of drug companies. American Home Products' Whitehall-Robins is in early discussions about consolidating its estimated $235 million media-planning duties. Eli Lilly & Co., meanwhile, is searching to consolidate its estimated $67 million-plus media buying and planning account.

In the telecom sector, BellSouth Corp. is in the process of a $120 million ad review, while AT&T Broadband may at some point put its entire account into review.

Other review activity is the result of corporate mergers and acquisitions. Newly merged ChevronTexaco, for example, has sent out what is being called a "request for information" from agencies.

The reviews, and discussion of ad spending, also have been coming at a time when many marketers themselves are cutting staff.

Contributing: Mercedes M. Cardona, Tobi Elkin, David Goetzl, Richard Linnett, Kate MacArthur, Jack Neff, Lisa Sanders and Stephanie Thompson

Read more on the reviews: American Home Products: QwikFIND AAM70P

BellSouth: QwikFIND AAM70D

Clairol: QwikFIND AAM71N

T.G.I. Friday's: QwikFIND AAM69R

Eli Lilly: QwikFIND AAM70V

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