Visa Eyes Creative Consolidation on $600M Account

Reaches Out to Major Holding Companies for Pitch

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NEW YORK ( -- Fresh off its initial public offering, Visa is eyeing a global consolidation of creative duties on its massive $600 million marketing account and has reached out to holding companies for the pitch, according to executives familiar with the matter.

These executives say Visa has invited the parent companies of roster shops around the world into the pitch, including: Omnicom Group, WPP Group and Publicis Groupe. Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., is currently Visa's lead creative agency in the U.S. An agency spokesman could not be immediately reached.

OMD wins in media review
Visa earlier this year wrapped a review of its media services, keeping the U.S. portion of the business with Omnicom's OMD after a holding-company shootout with WPP Group's Mediaedge:cia. OMD also retained media chores in Asia-Pacific, China and India and added on some non-European assignments in the review, while Mediaedge retained the account in the European Union.

Representatives for Visa today did not immediately return calls, though earlier it would only say this in a statement: "Visa Inc. works with a roster of marketing and advertising agencies around the world. We continually evaluate our agency partners to ensure we are effectively and efficiently promoting the Visa brand, products and services to cardholders worldwide."

One executive said the move was spurred by Visa's first global CMO, Antonio Lucio, a 25-year marketing veteran with background largely in packaged foods, whom Visa snagged last November from Pepsi. Pepsi has long favored the consolidation model and currently has the bulk of its marketing account parked under the Omnicom Group umbrella.

Spreading the wealth
Domestically, Visa spent a total of $392 million on measured media last year, slightly down from 2006 figures, which came in around $418 million, per TNS Media Intelligence. The bulk of the budget in the U.S. is spent on marketing the Visa credit card and Visa check card, TNS shows.

Meanwhile, Visa spent a total of $581 million globally on marketing in 2007 -- a 23% boost over what it shelled out globally in 2006, according to its most recent 10K filing with the SEC. It attributed the increase in fiscal 2007 to expenses for certain joint promotional campaigns with financial-institution customers; expenditures linked to Visa Extras, a point-based rewards program, and promotional activity around its Visa Signature, Visa Small Business and Consumer Debit products.

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Contributing: Matthew Creamer, Megan McIlroy
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