Verizon's media biz in review

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Verizon Communications is out to consolidate its $300 million media buying account. The telecommunications giant also launched a series of regional agency reviews for its wireless unit, including a $50 million Northeast assignment.

Verizon's media agencies of record--which include MediaCom, MindShare and Zenith Media, all New York; and Richards Group, Dallas--are expected to participate in the media review.

A Verizon Wireless spokeswoman confirmed the regional reviews, saying, "Some of the [seven] regions are reviewing for local, tactical advertising." She declined to specify which regions.

ON STRIKE

The marketing assessments come as Verizon deals with a strike by 86,000 workers, which began Aug. 6.

Verizon Communications was formed by this summer's joining of Bell Atlantic and GTE Corp. Verizon Wireless was also created at the time. The wireless company includes the assets of AirTouch Cellular, AirTouch Paging, Bell Atlantic Mobile, GTE Wireless and PrimeCo Personal Communications.

Blueprint Communications, Atlanta, is handling the media agency search; Wanamaker Associates is overseeing the Northeast review, said executives close to the situation. Wanamaker also is managing the $170 million to $250 million wireless review for the yet-to-be merged SBC Communications and BellSouth. Both consultants declined to comment. Janet Keeler, senior VP-marketing services and brand management for Verizon, was unavailable for comment. Other Verizon executives didn't return calls for comment.

At least some of Verizon's roster agencies were expected to participate in the pending regional reviews. Interestingly, as Verizon looks locally, it still hasn't settled on which agencies would take the lead in its national advertising.

"They're letting the competitive juices flow [among roster agencies]," said one executive close to Verizon. "There are so many politics involved, each agency has a champion within the organization."

The cornucopia of agencies that each served GTE and Bell Atlantic, as well as AirTouch Communications and PrimeCo, were retained after the merger.

Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, Dallas and New York, and Temerlin McClain, Irving, Texas, handled GTE work, while several agencies split the Bell Atlantic business. Lord Group, New York, and Arnold Communications, Boston, handled the bulk of the corporate and business advertising for Bell Atlantic. Bozell, New York, handles the key strategic wireless business of Bell Atlantic Mobile. Draft Worldwide, Chicago; Tierney & Partners, Philadelphia; L'Agencia de Orci, Los Angeles; and Burrell Communications Group, Chicago, also handle smaller parts of the business.

Earlier this month, Verizon broke the initial phase of an estimated $300 million multimedia push. In an ill-timed effort, that campaign came just as the strike began.

Contributing: Tobi Elkin

Copyright August 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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