Team bags Bell Atlantic's $200 mil buying trophy

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After a six-month review, Bell Atlantic Corp. tapped Zenith Media and Media Direct Partners, both New York, to handle its $200 million consolidated buying assignment.

The two buyers will set up a dedicated Bell Atlantic unit at Zenith offices with a separate, not-yet-chosen name. The unit will employ between 50 and 60 people, about two-thirds of which will come from Zenith.


The formal teaming of two companies with different parents is fairly unusual within the media industry. Zenith is jointly owned by Saatchi & Saatchi and Cordiant Communications Group, while Media Direct Partners' parent is Interpublic Group of Cos.' Western International Media. Zenith and Media Direct Partners have, however, worked together for other clients on a project basis during the past five years.

Bill McCarron, Bell Atlantic executive director-media services, said the telecommunications field requires the two integrated specialties of general and direct media buying. He said his company was ready to separate the two and award them separately had it been necessary.

"The skill sets are so different for general media and direct buying and not that many companies out there do them both," Mr. McCarron said.

The Zenith/Media Direct team prevailed over a partnership between Arnold Communications, Boston, and Draft Worldwide, Chicago; TBWA Chiat/Day, New York; and TN Media, New York. Bell Atlantic previously spread out media buying duties among Zenith, Arnold, TBWA Chiat/Day and TN Media. Consultant Bedford Group handled.

The teams pitching knew direct-response media capabilities, specifically for TV, would be an important consideration.

"The Zenith and Media Direct partnership was unprecedented and provided them with marketing opportunities and cost efficiencies unachievable before such a partnership was formed," said Bob Ingram, Media Direct Partners president.


One of the winning team's strengths, along with Zenith's incumbent status, was its management. Wendy Marquardt, who will be Zenith agency of record manager, left DMB&B, St. Louis, last year, where she headed the SBC Communications account. Zenith CEO Rich Hamilton also is a DMB&B and SBC alumnus.

Zenith and Media Direct Partners will begin buying Aug. 1. Bell Atlantic expects to have the new team in place by the end of the year.

Mr. McCarron said some of the consolidated synergies he expects the dedicated unit to achieve include reducing the buying time cycle, maximizing clout in the market and sharing technology.M

Contributing: Carol Krol, Chuck Ross, Laura Petrecca.

Copyright July 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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