Visa Intl. searches for new firm after five years with GCI

FOSTER CITY, CA: Visa International is conducting a search for a new primary agency, which the credit-card- and payment-services company hopes to have on board by the start of the new year.

FOSTER CITY, CA: Visa International is conducting a search for a new primary agency, which the credit-card- and payment-services company hopes to have on board by the start of the new year.

Russ Yarrow, SVP of global corporate relations, confirmed that Visa issued an RFI a few weeks ago. He declined to say how many, or which, agencies were participating in the review. He would only describe the search as "competitive." The company also said that its procurement apparatus will be involved in the search.

Yarrow said the search is being managed internally without the help of a consultant, and he expects a decision to be made before the end of the year.

"The agency will be working with our corporate headquarters," explained Yarrow. "They are going to work with us on corporate reputation, stakeholder management, sponsorships, and partnerships."

"We want to make sure we have the best resources for our needs right now," added Yarrow. "We're looking at how we can provide effective communications platforms for our operating regions, and how we can develop more of an effective voice in the marketplace."

One agency that will not be participating is the incumbent firm, GCI Group. GCI has worked with Visa International for about five years. Visa worked primarily with GCI's New York and San Francisco offices.

"We have elected not to participate," said GCI president and CEO Bob Feldman. "We have resigned the relationship effective December 31. We know Visa is going through some substantial changes right now.

"I think we've done terrific work in our time with Visa," added Feldman. "Our work stands for itself."

David Demarest, Visa's EVP of global corporate relations and communications, left the company at the end of October to pursue other interests. Demarest had been with Visa for nearly five years, but decided to move on after Malcolm Williamson announced in June that he would not return as president and CEO when his current term ends in March.

Most of Demarest's duties are now being handled by John Elkins, EVP of global brand management and corporate relations. Demarest oversaw all aspects of Visa's communications, both internal and external.

Nearly a year ago, Visa USA selected Golin/Harris International as its new AOR, severing its relationship with Ketchum after six years.

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