CitiBank's Global Plum Lands at Y&R: Consolidation Of Accounts Could Reach A Record-Setting $800 MIL

By Published on .

Citibank incumbent agencies thought they had nothing to lose and everything to gain when a $150 million global branding assignment went up for grabs early this year.

Just how seriously incumbents J. Walter Thompson Co., Lowe & Partners/SMS and Foote, Cone & Belding, all New York, miscalculated was painfully evident when the review ended abruptly last week, with surprise outsider Young & Rubicam walking off with a much larger consolidated prize valued at more than a half-billion dollars.


The consolidation-Citibank executives tagged the billings at $500 million, but others close to the account estimated the figure at upwards of $800 million-could be the largest ever. At the least, it equals IBM Corp.'s consolidation of $500 million at Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide in 1994, and Colgate-Palmolive Co.'s $561 million consolidation at Y&R last year.

Citibank's consolidation includes the $150 million global branding campaign, FCB's Latin America business, JWT's Asian business, Lowe's U.S. and European credit card business, and FCB's direct marketing assignment.

Y&R and its Y&R Advertising subsidiary twice declined to participate in the review because of client conflicts with American Express Co. and KeyCorp. But Y&R apparently became more interested two weeks ago when the larger consolidation was dangled before it with no accompanying demand for a creative pitch-just a stealth capabilities presentation that included integrated marketing.


Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York, one incumbent that did not participate in Citibank's global branding review, retained the Citibank AAdvantage credit card and college advertising accounts.

With the win, Y&R Advertising, New York, resigned bank client KeyCorp, and transferred that business to the Lord Group, a New York-based subsidiary.

A KeyCorp spokesman said the bank may evaluate whether to change agencies yet again on the estimated $30 million account.

AmEx's direct marketing business, on which Y&R unit Wunderman Cato Johnson, is the lead agency, is expected to move to Ogilvy & Mather's Ogilvy One.

Citibank started hearing presentations on a global branding campaign in January but stopped in February to reorganize its international marketing organization. The pitch resumed in April, but in May the bank expanded the focus.


Citibank was drawn to Y&R by a web of present and past relationships. William I. Campbell, Citi-bank's exec VP-global consumer business, had a relationship with Y&R going back to his days at Philip Morris Cos. Brian Ruder,

senior VP-global marketing and a former executive at H.J. Heinz Co., a Y&R client, has known Creative Director Ted Bell since his days at Leo Burnett Co.

Additionally, Citibank is a client of Y&R's public relations subsidiary, Burson-Marsteller, and had been a client of Dentsu, Young & Rubicam, Tokyo, in the past.

Y&R's capabilities presentation stressed its ability to carry out integrated marketing worldwide and across disciplines, said Y&R Inc. Chairman-CEO Peter Georgescu, who noted compensation will be results-based with revenues tied to its success building Citibank's brand.


"Clearly, we've got what they need. Our two companies see the world the same," he said. "They want to have one brand with one voice-that's their mantra."

Executives at some of the incumbent agencies were furious to find out Citibank did not tell them it was hearing presentations from Y&R for a larger consolidated account, even as they made what they thought were final presentations as late as a week ago.

"It was our business and nobody else's," countered Citibank's Mr. Ruder. "Thompson didn't need to know what FCB was up to and so on."

The bank's global campaign will be launched early next year. Everything will be trafficked through Y&R, though some project work may be given to Lowe, Mr. Ruder said.

They are expected to meet on that this week.

Most Popular
In this article: