Nine vie for $250 mil wireless acc't

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As SBC Communications merges with BellSouth, the yet-to-be combined company finally has initiated its $170 million to $250 million wireless account review.

Nine ad agencies have received requests for proposal from consultant Wannamaker Associates, Atlanta. They are expected to submit credentials as soon as this week, though a BellSouth spokesman declined to confirm the timing.

SBC wireless agency GSD&M, Austin, Texas, and BellSouth wireless shop WestWayne, Atlanta, are believed to have been invited to pitch the account.

GSD&M declined comment; WestWayne didn't return calls at press time. But those close to the situation said participating agencies must have or create a Southeast office.

GOODBY TAKES A PASS

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, which handles SBC's brand assignments and consumer wire lines, is not expected to go after the account.

The BellSouth spokesman, speaking on behalf of BellSouth and SBC, confirmed that the RFP went out in late July but declined to disclose the contenders.

Separately, the spokesman said brand consultancies are working on a new moniker for the soon-to-be merged company, tentatively dubbed NewCo. The official name should surface in mid-to-late September, when the Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Department of Justice are expected to approve the merger. "We are on an accelerated time frame," the BellSouth spokesman said.

INTERIM AD TEAM

In the meantime, SBC and BellSouth have created a team of marketing executives to orchestrate the wireless review and other transition issues.

The proposed merger of the wireless operations of SBC and BellSouth, announced in April, would create the U.S.' second-largest wireless company, competing in both the wireless data and voice businesses. The merged company would serve more than 17.4 million customers and 175 million potential customers in 34 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories.

SBC recently shuffled some of its advertising accounts, moving long-distance work from GSD&M to Goodby. GSD&M now handles wireless and consumer information services, such as the 411 directory, Yellow Pages and Southwestern Bell's online directory, as well as media buying for SBC.

BellSouth works with WestWayne on wireless and its Yellow Pages account. Merkley Newman Harty, New York, handles BellSouth's corporate branding and all consumer services. Initiative Media, Atlanta, handles BellSouth's media.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo

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