Cisco ends six-month AOR hunt with Weber Shandwick

SAN JOSE, CA: After spending six months on a highly competitive RFP that many PR firms viewed as 2003's ultimate technology account, Cisco Systems has selected Interpublic Group's Weber Shandwick (WS) as its agency of record in the US. Hill & Knowlton was the other agency in the final round of selection, according to sources familiar with the review.

SAN JOSE, CA: After spending six months on a highly competitive RFP that many PR firms viewed as 2003's ultimate technology account, Cisco Systems has selected Interpublic Group's Weber Shandwick (WS) as its agency of record in the US. Hill & Knowlton was the other agency in the final round of selection, according to sources familiar with the review.

That AOR status covers corporate communications, business units, and News@Cisco, the company's extensive news site. While the size of the account is still not known, the win will certainly represent a healthy revenue boost for the agency.

The scope of the RFP grew considerably since Cisco embarked on the agency search in June for what was supposed to be a US corporate agency of record. The RFP came to include tech PR and News@Cisco. Latin America had also been added, but was later taken back off the table.

Jerry Swerling, an LA-based PR management consultant, advised Cisco during the process.

"After a thorough search in which a dozen global agencies were evaluated, we have selected Weber Shandwick as our US PR agency of record," confirmed Penny Bruce, Cisco's senior manager of corporate PR. Bruce added that while Cisco has worked with several agencies on projects over the years, including WS, it has not had an AOR in the US in some time. The firm will commence work on the account at the beginning of 2004, and its Bay Area and East Coast offices will manage the account, said Bruce. WS declined to comment on the win.

"Weber Shandwick showed demonstrated experience with global companies, including technology companies, as well as creative and strategic thinking," said Bruce. She declined to reveal which agencies participated in the search.

As for why Cisco decided to engage a PR firm in an agency-of-record relationship, Bruce said the timing was right, and pointed to a recent global marketing campaign that she said would be enhanced by increased PR efforts.

Earlier this year, Cisco launched a $200 million global branding campaign that included PR. The initiative sought to position Cisco as the leader in networking technologies, and the campaign garnered heavy media coverage in The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the San Jose Mercury News and various other print, broadcast, and online media outlets.

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