Bank of America awards its $60m account to Omnicom

NEW YORK: Omnicom Group won Bank of America's massive marketing services account last week following a competitive pitch between Omnicom, WPP Group, and incumbent Interpublic Group.

NEW YORK: Omnicom Group won Bank of America's massive marketing services account last week following a competitive pitch between Omnicom, WPP Group, and incumbent Interpublic Group.

Omnicom has not yet determined how it will handle the account's PR element.

BoA moved its account, which is estimated to be worth more than $60 million in revenues, from IPG, which had controlled it since late 2002.

Omnicom EVP Susan Smith Ellis led the holding company's pitch, which featured eight different Omnicom agencies of various disciplines. No PR firm, however, participated.

"Some core team of us will be managing the business now that we have it, but we will utilize the resources of the network," Ellis said.

The team that led the pitch will stay together through the planning and implementation phase, which has already begun. But Ellis rejected industry speculation that Omnicom would create a "dedicated unit" within the company specifically for the BoA business, as IPG had done.

"We haven't even thought about whether you physically relocate [the BoA team] somewhere together, [or if] they come together, work together, and then retreat back to their individual companies," she said. "That's all to be determined."

A source close to the review said that the PR element of the new account was still up in the air because of how BoA's internal structure separates PR from other marketing services.

Ketchum, Porter Novelli, and Fleishman-Hillard, Omnicom's largest PR agencies, as well as BoA itself, referred calls to the holding company.

The loss of the account was a little-needed blow for IPG, which has not released revenue figures since last year as it works to address extensive internal accounting problems.

BoA's move seems in line with speculation that IPG's questionable financial status is having a tangible negative effect on client retention; last month, a source close to the review confirmed that IPG's finances were a driving factor in BoA's decision to review the account. IPG didn't return a call for comment.

Weber Shandwick initially handled the bulk of the BoA work at IPG, but it later shifted to MWW. GolinHarris, which did media training work for BoA, declined to comment. WS and MWW did not return calls before press time.

BoA's loss of confidence in IPG clearly didn't shake its commitment to the holding company model itself, but a former BoA communication executive who requested anonymity said the model hasn't always worked in the company's interests.

"If you had local firms who understood local markets, you couldn't use them unless they were part of IPG," the source said. "Needless to say, the agencies that we were expected to use didn't always understand the local-market situations."

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