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Bank of America, the nation's third largest bank, is conducting a review for a consolidated account estimated at $70 million. The business is currently split between Ketchum Advertising, San Francisco, and EvansGroup, Seattle.

The San Francisco-based bank has designated an internal committee to conduct the review over the next several months, though no timetable for a decision has been set. Among those on the committee are Lori McCarney, senior VP-brand & merchandising management, and Marnie Delaney, director of advertising.

Bank of America has just begun contacting agencies about participating; the incumbents are expected to be included. The re-The review is a blow to Ketchum, a unit of Omnicom Group; the bank is the agency's largest account and one of the last remaining cornerstone accounts of the San Francisco office. The office recently lost the $30 million Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages account and is expected to be merged into TBWA Chiat/Day by the end of the year.

Ketchum had been running a TV and outdoor campaign tagged "Banking on America" since it won the account. In February, Ketchum revamped its ad approach to focus on specific financial products in addition to overall image.

Although Ketchum San Francisco won the estimated $80 million Pacific Bell long-distance account earlier this year, phone company executives speculate it may never materialize. Pacific Bell is reassessing its relationships with its 44 ad agencies.

Southwestern Bell Corp., which acquired Pacific Bell, has hired Pacific Bell's branding agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, for its long-distance account.

Other remaining clients at Ketchum include the Robert Mondavi Winery and a number of food accounts.

EvansGroup handles point of purchase and collateral materials for Bank of America in seven states and works for its Seafirst subsidiary.

The bank spent $45.6 million in 1995; it is expected to boost its media exposure as it develops retail banking business, now responsible for 40% of profits.

Bank of America is playing catch-up with major brand repositionings undertaken in the past year by the nation's top consumer and business banks.

Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank have revamped consumer advertising to reflect diversifying strengths, including investment advice and new lending options.

Overall, retail branch banking is taking a back seat to lending and asset management as banks isolate core strengths and niches for marketing, rather than trying to be all things to all people.

"Banks took their customers for granted for years and paid no attention to brand management," said Albert Taylor, VP-corporate marketing for Harris Trust & Savings, Chicago. "Now, with new competition coming from the outside, banks are waking up to realize the importance of using marketing technologies, brand management and customer and prospect data mining."

Bank of America named longtime executive David Coulter as CEO last year; since then, he has undertaken several strategic cost-cutting moves including paring unprofitable branches and divesting underperforming big loans.

Bank of America is now rapidly expanding its nationwide consumer banking presence by adding hundreds of in-store outlets at supermarkets across the U.S., with a heavy presence in American Stores' Jewel Food Stores.

The bank does business in 11 states with 1,965 branches.M

Contributing: Kate Fitzgerald.

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