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In seeking an agency for its $80 million account, GTE has taken an unusual approach in actively courting shops with conflicting telecommunications clients.

While agencies with potential conflicts are sometimes asked to participate in reviews, GTE is going a step further. In several cases, it apparently encouraged an agency with a conflict to compete anyway.

Three agencies said to be competing for the account were dealing with telecommunications marketers when the review started in September, though two no longer have their clients.

Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis, lost U S West Communications in December. Consultants representing GTE approached Wells Rich Greene BDDP, New York, despite the shop pitching and winning the Citizens Telecommunications account. WRG executives said the agency and Citizens never signed a contract, and this relationship ended two weeks ago.

A third contender is said to be Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, which works for Nynex Corp. O&M spokesmen have denied they are in a "pitch," labeling rumors of quiet talks between O&M and GTE "speculation."


Executives close to the review maintain GTE is letting the agencies play a game of semantics by not hosting official "pitches."

"There is no official pitch-there never has been," said one executive who's close to the review. "They're able to maintain their deniability on that basis."

GTE declined comment.

Arnold Communications, Bos-ton, was approached by GTE's search consultant, Achenbaum Bogda Associates, even though it handles $40 million to $50 million of Nynex business. Arnold declined to participate because of the conflict, but an executive said GTE continued to pursue the agency-which again declined to pitch.

Grey Advertising, New York, a Sprint Corp. agency, was also asked to compete but declined.

Also contending are incumbents Focus GTE, a unit of Omnicom Group of Cos., and Temerlin McClain; both are Dallas shops.

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