AT&T in the next two weeks is expected to name four or five finalists for its consumer long-distance account, now shared by 61 shops. And American Express Co. has just completed a realignment that splinters its relationship marketing.
Both accounts are key clients and profit contributors at a handful of large direct shops, so the consolidations promise to have a major impact on their fortunes. And all of AmEx's three main agencies also share AT&T's business.
The AT&T review, involving an estimated $200 million in billings, affects many of the company's current agencies and all of the major shops that handle the long-distance business. Two newcomers are also vying for the account: Worldwide 1 on 1, New York, a joint venture between Ross Roy Communications and N W Ayer, and FCB Direct, a sister of AT&T's new lead long-distance agency, FCB/Leber Katz Partners.
The company hasn't shared many details of the review with contenders but has requested capability presentations (AA, Feb. 14). Agency executives expect AT&T to narrow the review to four or five shops in the next few weeks and to name two or three lead direct marketing agencies by April 1.
Many assignments were left intact, but others were moved: Wunderman picked up AmEx's Seniors Card from O&M and got the new Members of Distinction assignment, which treats big-spending, affluent business travelers as a separate target. Bronner won Optima Rewards from Wunderman, several new rewards programs plus a large assignment on the Corporate Card aimed at small businesses. AmEx's Consumer Card Group direct marketing agency billings are in excess of $100 million.
The shifts followed a split of AmEx's relationship marketing function, last headed by Senior VP Abby Kohnstamm, who is now at IBM Corp. Amy McIntosh was named senior VP on Members of Distinction from VP-Travelers Cheque marketing, while Eric Sagerman was named VP-cardmember services from VP-relationship marketing. The latter post involves marketing to all other current AmEx customers.
Both report to Anne Busquet, who last year was named exec VP-charge card marketing. But an AmEx spokeswoman acknowledged that "operational issues" currently inhibit the company's ability to market to the Members of Distinction segment. For instance, the company can't yet provide a single statement for multiple card accounts.