Prodigy, Cliff Freeman bid adieu

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Prodigy Services Co., White Plains, N.Y., and Cliff Freeman and Partners, New York, ended their year-old partnership this week, citing a mutual parting of the ways over divergent goals.

The move comes at an auspicious time for the online service company, which succeeded in May with a management-led buyout from parent companies IBM Corp. and Sears, Roebuck, & Co.

The company, now partly managed by investor International Wireless, Cambridge, Mass., is in the process of relaunching its brand under the Prodigy Internet name this fall with new marketing and at least six OEM deals with computer companies like IBM Corp. and Packard Bell.

In the coming weeks it will begin searching for a new agency for the Prodigy Internet business.

Whether or not the company's new relationship with International Wireless will impact marketing efforts is unclear. "The decisions regarding the future launch of the product are being made by the combined management," said Prodigy spokesman Barry Kluger. "It's not a group of people looking into a fishbowl, but a group effort."

Initially, the online service company was said to plan a $20 million marketing budget for 1996 before the buyout. The figure now is in the $10 million range, according to executives close to Prodigy.

In 1996, "Prodigy wanted to make a heavy below-the-line effort with little, if any, broadcast," said one executive familiar with agency-client talks. "In 1995, the branding effort was led by broadcast."

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