Bank of America Shifts PR Duties to Burson-Marsteller

Previously Handled by Omnicom Group's Emanate

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Bank of America is consolidating the bulk of its sizeable PR business within WPP's Burson-Marsteller, Ad Age has learned.

The move comes almost a year after the company conducted a holding company review and shifted its ad business to WPP from Omnicom. At the time, PR was not part of the review.

Omnicom's Emanate has had the lion's share of the business, including consumer, small-business and commercial-banking PR, as well as strategy and national outreach for the global wealth-management division. Interpublic's Weber Shandwick works on corporate-communications and CSR; and Burson-Marsteller has supported Merrill Lynch financial-advisers division and executives within the company's global wealth-management division.

The consolidation won't affect Weber Shandwick's business. Interpublic's Hill Holliday also managed to hang onto a decent chunk of business during the creative consolidation at WPP.

The loss is a significant one for Emanate, which added Bank of America as its second client seven years ago. It is the firm's largest client, with budgets that have exceeded $5 million, according to people familiar with the matter.

"We were really grateful for the partnership. We've had a good seven-year partnership and we have a ton of work that we're really proud of," said Emanate CEO Kim Sample.

The loss of the account will likely affect agency jobs once the business has fully transitioned, according to industry executives. But Ms. Sample was upbeat about the firm's prospects as it's made an effort to diversify its business with a portfolio of consumer, B-to-B and corporate reputation accounts, she said.

Among Emanate's clients are KFC, Philips, The Hartford, Celebrity Cruises and Hilton brands Embassy Suites and Hilton Garden Inn.

As a result of the Bank of America win, Burson-Marsteller will become part of the WPP team that's charged with communicating to Wall Street and consumers that it's a new day at the bank, and helping to repair the company's image.

Burson-Marsteller referred calls to the client. Bank of America declined to comment beyond confirming the consolidation.

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