10-Year Incumbent Hill Holliday Says No

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NEW YORK ( -- Cisco Systems, the once high-flying Internet networking giant, has embarked on a agency review for its multimillion-dollar global advertising account, a company executive today confirmed.

Ten-year agency incumbent Interpublic Group of Cos.' Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, San Francisco, will not participate in the review, Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for the agency in Boston, said.

"We've had a long and happy relationship with Cisco, but they are now going through a period of organizational change, and we think it's best for both parties if we both go our separate ways."

The agency, which had the account with predecessor shop Goldberg Moser O'Neill for more than 10 years, won a Gold Effie award in 2001 for its Internet Generation campaign for Cisco.

Jere King, vice president of worldwide marketing communications for Cisco, said that 10 pre-selected agencies will receive letters about the review by Feb. 4. Ms. King declined to specify the agencies, the review consultant handling the process and the approximate size of the account.

Cisco spent $52.8 million in measured media in the U.S. from January through October 2001, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. It spent $43.7 million in 2000.

Marketing cutbacks
Like all technology companies, Cisco scaled back its marketing expenditures. However, it spent handily on acquiring tech startups: In 1999 alone, the company spent an estimated $15 billion on start-ups that executives believed would help it expand its lead in the optical networking arena.

Cisco executives said the company is looking for a full-service global agency that will help it execute a sophisticated integrated marketing communications plan.

"It's a new marketing environment. We have a new marketing organization and we're looking for new ideas," Ms. King said.

Cisco appointed company veteran James Richardson as chief marketing officer last summer as the company's management team was reshuffled. Cisco works with several different agencies including Kirschenbaum Bond & Partners West, San Francisco, for direct marketing.

Ms. King said that the review does not mean that Cisco's other roster shops will be eliminated.

In 1998, Cisco spent $60 million on the global "Are You Ready?" campaign that signaled the company wanted to be taken seriously as a global brand.

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