Schwab taps Suissa Miller for key acc't

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Charles Schwab & Co., expected to ramp up its advertising budget to more than $100 million this year, has awarded its core brokerage services account to Suissa Miller, Los Angeles, without a review.

Suissa's initial win is for Schwab's $30 million to $40 million brokerage account, although marketing executives said the agency presented concepts to unify the company's message throughout its brands and media.

`HARD-HITTING' AGENCY

"They are very focused and hard-hitting," Len Short, exec VP-advertising and brand management at Schwab, said of the agency, adding he was impressed with Suissa's work for such clients as Boston Market.

Schwab plans to retain its roster creative and media shops, Mr. Short said.

The Schwab move comes as a booming stock market has caused consumers to flock to places to invest their money. And financial service companies, ranging from mutual funds to upstart electronic brokerages, are trying to create solid brand images to lure dollars their way.

A spate of agency reviews for financial services testify to this trend.

`MARCUS WELBY'

Charles Schwab, company founder and chairman, will continue his statesmanlike role in some advertising. "He's not a pitchman for us; he's our secret weapon," said Mr. Short. "He's the Marcus Welby of investing--trustworthy, reassuring and strong."

Schwab, with 5 million customer households, wants to increase its share of sophisticated traders willing to pay its online fees of $29 a trade. Some competitors offer the services at much cheaper rates.

Beyond offering brokerage services, Schwab also provides data resources such as the Analyst Center, an online distillation of reports from brokerage houses, and The Market Buzz, providing up-to-date marketing information from news sources. It also offers mutual funds through its OneSource unit.

OneSource is handled by Cohn Godley Norwood, Boston. Other Schwab roster agencies include Highway One, San Francisco, and Rapp Collins Worldwide, Chicago, for direct marketing; Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif., for network TV buying; Media Edge, New York, for planning and spot TV buying; and Western International Media, Los Angeles, for direct response TV buys.

SPLIT WITH LOWE

A search is on to replace Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, for sports sponsorship programs, Mr. Short said. The two split after Lowe made the finalists list for the $70 million Merrill Lynch review.

Suissa's fortunes soared in 1996, when the underdog agency won the shootout for the $125 million American Honda Motor Co. Acura division account. The agency had $240 million in billings last year, up 71.5% over 1996.

Contributing: James B. Arndorfer.

Copyright May 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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