BellSouth makes $185 mil call to Western Int. Media

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BellSouth Corp. awarded its $185 million-plus media buying assignment to Western International Media this week.

That decision was bad news for Omnicom Group. Although Omnicom's Merkley Newman Harty, New York, remains BellSouth's lead creative agency, its Creative Media unit, acquired recently in part to pitch this account, was the big loser in the shoot-out.

Other BellSouth agencies Long Haymes Carr, Winston-Salem, N.C., and Tucker, Wayne & Co, Atlanta, participated in the review.


Merkley sister shop BBDO West, Atlanta, had handled BellSouth's buying until the large New York-based agency was awarded AT&T Corp. business. It was after parting with BBDO that BellSouth decided to consolidate media buying, which had been dispersed at its various shops.

However, winner Western International is part of Interpublic Group of Cos., and Interpublic's McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York, also is an AT&T shop.

"So there were conflicts all around the periphery of this review," said one media executive at an Omnicom agency. In the final analysis, "it was the combination of price, media clout and breadth of service that Western had to offer us," said William Pate, VP-corporate advertising for BellSouth.

But sources close to the review said BellSouth was somewhat put off by the fact Omnicom was so involved in the pitch.

"When Western pitched it was just Western," said one media executive. "Omnicom had just acquired Creative, and Omnicom executives were heavily involved. BellSouth was more comfortable just dealing with the people who were going to be on the account."


BellSouth this week breaks a new regional campaign from Merkley that features celebrities who hail from the South and are actual BellSouth customers, such as Muggsy Bogues, Courteney Cox, Naomi Judd and Daisy Fuentes.

"The campaign uses a series of customers who just so happen to be celebrities," said Cindy Frisina, director of advertising for BellSouth Telecommunications.

The company plans to continue adding new celebrities through 1997. "We obviously don't have as much money as AT&T or MCI, so we have to use all in our power to break through the clutter," Ms. Frisina said. "Celebrities are a great way to break through."

Merkley is working on a campaign for BellSouth's new Internet access service,, launched last week. That advertising is expected to break in late October and will include TV, print and online components.

Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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