Delta, BBDO joust over fairness of $100 mil review

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Delta Air Lines last week disputed an assertion by BBDO Worldwide that the agency wasn't being given a fair chance in the airline's $100 million global account review. BBDO withdrew the day before pitches were to begin.

"The review process has been totally and scrupulously professional and unbiased, and has involved people from the highest levels of the company," said Robert Coggin, exec VP-marketing for Delta.


BBDO's withdrawal after 51 years as Delta's agency was the third instance this year of an agency declining to defend a big account. Two weeks ago, Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, declined to participate in a review for MasterCard International's $80 million account. Earlier, Grey Advertising, New York, declined to defend the $75 million Domino's account.

"It had become apparent that we were not being considered objectively or with an open mind," said Phil Dusenberry, chairman of BDDO's New York office.

Citing an Advertising Age report pointing to Ogilvy & Mather, New York, as the favorite to win Delta, in part because of Delta director Ed Artzt's close ties to O&M executives, BBDO Worldwide Chairman-CEO Allen Rosenshine said: "Mr. Artzt had nothing to do with BBDO's decision. We just wanted to believe the assurances we've been given all along that there was no negative bias toward BBDO and that brilliant advertising supporting Delta's brand positioning and business development strategy would be the most important criteria in the agency selection. We withdrew because we are now convinced that neither is the case."

BBDO said Delta marketing executives imposed new review rules Feb. 28 barring agencies from presenting any TV or sound track materials in pitches.


"To us, this clearly minimizes the importance of creative work," which is BBDO's strength, Mr. Dusenberry said.

"All the participants have been given the same rules and the same opportunity to present their best ideas," Mr. Coggin said. "There have been no complaints from any other participants."

Though Mr. Coggin is Delta's senior marketing executive, executives from BBDO and other agencies say newly hired Gayle Bock, VP-consumer marketing, and Tim Mapes, director of advertising, are running the review.

Delta said it will announce a winner the week of March 17. Ammirati and Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, both New York, are the other contenders along with O&M.

Contributing: Michael Wilke.

Copyright March 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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