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NEW YORK ( -- BellSouth Corp. has narrowed the review for its estimated $125 million advertising account to four agencies.

The finalists are Omnicom Group's Merkley Newman Harty, New York, a BellSouth incumbent; Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York; Havas Advertising's Arnold Worldwide, Boston; and Richards Group, Dallas.

Media buying is not part of the review, which is being spearheaded by Wanamaker Associates, Atlanta. William Pate, vice president of advertising and public relations for Atlanta-based BellSouth, is leading the review.

The four shops were chosen from a group of 10 agencies; credentials meetings were completed Oct. 15. The next phase of the review includes informational briefings with the client in Atlanta. BellSouth executives will brief the agencies on the business.

Final presentations with creative will take place four to five weeks after the informational meetings. A decision is expected before the end of the year.

BellSouth began the review process in early September. The telecommunications company is looking for an agency to handle strategic brand planning, creative development, media planning, general market and ethnic creative duties. The business also extends to electronic, Internet, database and direct response marketing, as well as strategic counsel, competitive tracking and analysis.

The $80 billion company serves nine Southeastern states with 25 million access lines and offers voice, data and broadband services. BellSouth owns 40% of Cingular Wireless; Omnicom's BBDO Worldwide, New York and Atlanta, handles Cingular advertising.

Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative Media, Atlanta, will continue to handle BellSouth's media buying and planning.

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