Verizon eyes new-media review

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Verizon Communications, on the heels of a massive media review, is considering a separate review that will address the telecom giant's media needs across emerging digital platforms.

The second review, not yet under way, would be far smaller than Verizon's estimated $500 million media account that Zenith Media and Draft Worldwide, both New York, won last week. An executive declined to estimate billings in the second review or specify potential contenders.

Verizon -- formed this year after the merger of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp. -- buys streaming online media as part of its broadcast buys. The phone company wants to assess additional new-media opportunities, among them Webcasting, personal video recorders, wireless platform advertising and others, according to one executive close to the process.


Verizon's selection of Zenith Media and Draft Worldwide followed a lengthy process. The agencies pitched together and beat out a group of competitors including Grey Global Group's MediaCom (Grey Worldwide, New York, handled AirTouch, now part of Verizon Wireless), WPP Group's MindShare (WPP's Ogilvy & Mather, New York, handled GTE) and True North Communications' TN Media, Chicago.

The need for media consolidation was clear to Verizon.

"We obviously needed to speed the process of handling our business and needed to lock up good talent on our account," said Bill McCarron, VP-media services, Verizon. "We need to be able to use our clout in the marketplace to get economies of scale in technology and to deal with the megamonster companies in the market."

While some agencies have been crashing under the waves of consolidation, others such as Zenith have been able so far to ride the heady surf of big-client mergers. Zenith began handling media planning and buying for Bell Atlantic in 1997 when the agency's owner, Saatchi & Saatchi, won the creative portion of the account. When Saatchi resigned later that year, Zenith retained the media business.

In 1998, Bell Atlantic purchased Nynex, and the merged entity conducted an agency review, which Zenith won and has held since then. Prior to this latest review, the Verizon account at Zenith was estimated at $150 million.

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