Telco Marconi begins $50 mil review

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Marconi Communications, London, is searching for an agency of record to handle an estimated $50 million in advertising.

The global telecommunications equipment marketer, formerly known as General Electric PLC and whose U.S. headquarters is in Pittsburgh, launched its first campaign, a business-to-business and corporate effort, in this country in February.

Handling that campaign was current agency of record Athorn, Clark & Partners, New York, which specializes in high-tech clients. The Marconi incumbent will participate in the contest, said Mike Marsak, president of consulting agency Effective Marketing Strategy, Marina del Rey, Calif., which is running the review.

"They are going to look at the large global agencies that don't have conflicts," Mr. Marsak said. Marconi will meet with agencies in October in London and will make its final choice before Dec. 25.

ATHORN'S `FINEST HOUR'

Marconi's original campaign, a flight of print ads that appeared in Business Week, The Economist, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, featured the tagline "Achieve your finest hour," and showed ordinary people doing that by using Marconi telecom services.

Athorn also created a broadcast TV spot featuring a voice-over by actress Mimi Rogers and dramatic shots of a live birth in a remote medical clinic transmitted on a Marconi virtual private network to a Lamaze class in Europe, a grandmother in one city and a child in another. Billboard ads in the campaign still stand in several international airports, said John Athorn, co-chairman, creative development.

Athorn originally won the account in August 1999 after a review that also included Ogilvy & Mather and WCRS, both London, and TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York. At that time, the U.K. company was entering the market hoping to compete with Nortel, Lucent Technologies and Cisco Systems.

Mr. Athorn and his partner John Clark, co-chairman, strategic development and research, are former executives of Anderson & Lembke, New York, who in 1998 set up their own shop. Their first client was Fore Systems, an Internet switching device maker that Marconi, before changing its name from GE, bought last year for $4.5 billion.

Last week, Marconi Communications, which claims annual revenue of $9 billion and 45,000 employees worldwide, purchased hardware designer Mariposa Technology for $268 million in stock.

Athorn claims more than $100 million in billings, all high-tech clients including a small print assignment for Microsoft Corp. It recently won a new client, Sensormatic, a security technology company.

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