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MasterCard International is expected to tap an agency for creative work on its estimated $100 million account within two weeks, ending an exhaustive six-month search.

The No. 2 card marketer, without a creative agency since Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York, resigned in March, will choose between McCann-Erickson Worldwide and Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, both New York.

New ads are expected to break in October, said an ad executive familiar with the review. The decision initially hadn't been expected until late in the year.


"They have been losing ground and share, and I'm surprised they haven't done this faster," said credit card marketing consultant Shelly Porges, CEO at Porges Hudson Marketing.

MasterCard has taken a beating in the bank-issued card segment it and Visa control, according to figures from Nilson Report. In 1996, MasterCard posted a 34% share, down from 35% in 1995. The newsletter estimates share will fall to 33% or less in 1997.

An ad executive involved in the review said extensive focus group testing of the finalists' creative work has gobbled up the most time in the process. The review was not sidetracked, the executive said, by the departure of then-MasterCard CEO H. Eugene Lockhart shortly after the search was announced. Robert Selander, an exec VP, succeeded Mr. Lockhart.

At the outset of the review, MasterCard indicated agencies would have to stick with the current "Future of Money" tagline as a theme, although it did not necessarily have to remain as the tag. It's unclear whether McCann or Messner is using "Future of Money."


MasterCard spent $99 million on advertising in 1996, putting it in fourth place among card marketers.

Visa USA led the pack by spending $220 million, followed by American Express Co. with $164 million and Dean Witter, Discover & Co.'s Discover Card with spending of $104 million.

But during the first quarter of 1997, MasterCard spending dropped 39.2% from the year-earlier period, to $15.2 million. In the same period, Visa boosted spending

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