Bank of America Launches Review; Roster Shops Invited to Pitch

Consolidation Possible Given Financial Giant Is in Midst of Cost-Cutting Exercise

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Bank of America, which spends nearly $2 billion on its marketing, has embarked on a review with an eye towards reformulating its brand positioning, according to multiple industry executives.

Bank of America declined to comment on the review, which is being led by global strategy and marketing boss Anne Finucane. Part of the impetus behind its examination of agency partners is the fact that the company hasn't done a review since 2006, executives familiar with the matter say.

The review is getting under way immediately, with agencies being briefed by the marketer this week, according to executives familiar with the matter. Bank of America is in the middle of a massive cost-cutting exercise and is facing scrutiny from consumers, and roster shops will be invited to pitch ideas to help the company rethink its marketing strategy.

Roster shops include: Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, which handles consumer and small-business marketing, and Rapp, which handles direct marketing; Interpublic Group of Cos. agencies Hill Holliday, which handles global wealth management and corporate-social-responsibility marketing, Jack Morton which handles experiential marketing, and Weber Shandwick, which handles PR; WPP's Brand Union, which handles branding and communications; and multicultural shop Lopez Negrete.

Bank of America is the 17th-largest marketer in the country, according to the Ad Age Datacenter, with $1.55 billion in ad spending in the U.S. alone.

The company wants to take a hard look at its overall marketing strategy at a time when mistrust of large financial organizations runs rampant and protesters are occupying Wall Street . It recently faced consumer backlash when it attempted an initiative to charge debit-card users a $5 monthly fee. It was forced to abandon that plan after rivals vowed to not charge such fees.

People familiar with the company said the review could lead to a consolidation, given it currently works with more than 15 agencies. Additionally, Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan has promised to slash $5 billion in costs annually by 2014. The company already announced cutting at least 30,000 jobs, from a workforce of less than 300,000.

Mr. Moynihan wants to find ways to trim the bank's $73 billion in annual expenses, The New York Times wrote in September, stating that the first part of the revamping plan involves the consumer-banking operations, as well as the bank's home-loan, technology and support operations.

Some of the steps towards the company's intended transformation have already been taken, such as the selling of non-core assets to Bank of America's business. After a steep decline in the company's stock price, it has begun to bounce back, suggesting that investors are liking what they are seeing. To that end, the advertising review might also be intended as a message to the Street .

For agencies working on Bank of America's business, the review is a double-edged sword. It presents an opportunity to potentially pitch ideas for new parts of the business they don't already handle, but it also means they might lose the portions of the account they already have.

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