SBC aiming to consolidate $70 mil in creative

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SBC Communications is looking to consolidate creative assignments for an estimated $70 million in wireless business, continuing a flurry of activity in the telecommunications category.

The assignments in review are believed to be direct and retail duties that will consolidate SBC's three wireless brands--Southwestern Bell Wireless, Cellular One and Pacific Bell Mobile Services.

More than half a dozen agencies are thought to be in the review, including Ketchum Advertising, San Francisco; Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, New York; GSD&M, Austin, Texas; and Leo Burnett USA, Chicago.

Because of strict rules imposed by SBC, all agencies contacted for this story declined comment.

The assignments are currently split between Ketchum, which handles Pacific Bell Mobile; and GSD&M, which has Southwestern Bell Wireless and Cellular One. Ketchum already lost the Pacific Bell long-distance business earlier this year to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, and downsized its office by 25 employees as a result.


Goodby, which in addition to long distance has the creative for branding, will not be participating in the new wireless review.

D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, St. Louis, handles consumer and several other unspecified SBC creative assignments, but an executive there said the shop is not pitching the consolidated wireless business.

SBC is already in the middle of an estimated $150 million media review, being conducted by Ken Bowes, president of Atlanta consultancy Wanamaker Associates; a decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Agencies believed to be pitching the media account include GSD&M; Burnett; and TBS Media Management and Optimum Media, both New York.

No consultant is being used for the creative review now getting underway.

Saatchi, one of the agencies believed to be pitching SBC, would seem to have a conflict because its media buying arm, Zenith Media, currently handles Bell Atlantic media.

"We generally do not allow conflicts," said a Bell Atlantic spokeswoman. "The telecomm-unications industry, particularly the regional Bell companies, are moving into an era of very fierce competition and truthfully, we are quite careful about agencies we select."

Contributing: Laura Petrecca.

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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