ATLANTA: BellSouth's incumbent agency, Cohn & Wolfe, is
conspicuously absent from the lineup of agencies pitching next week for
the company's dollars 5 million account.
Although Denny Betz, BellSouth's assistant VP of media relations, denied
the move is due to C&W Atlanta's recent management upheaval, new agency
CEO Diana Garza blamed the review on the departure - led by former CEO
Tony DeMartino - of several senior staffers to launch rival agency The
'The Titan Network folks did a real disservice to us,' Garza said,
explaining that the defection gutted the BellSouth account team,
rendering them unable to defend their position as co-agency of record
with GCI Group.
Scheduled to make presentations this week are the Atlanta offices of
GCI, Manning, Selvage & Lee and Porter Novelli, which has partnered with
360 Thinc for the pitch. BellSouth assigned projects to the agencies
last week after narrowing its search.
Each player has a different inside hook to BellSouth. With C&W out of
the picture, GCI becomes the sole incumbent. Furthermore, when managing
director Ken Willis founded the Atlanta office in 1995, BellSouth was
its first client. Willis also functions as GCI president for Latin
America, a region in which BellSouth has significant interests. In
addition, he recently recruited former BellSouth assistant director of
media relations, Deb Spicer, away from Hill & Knowlton.
MS&L secured a relationship with BellSouth last year through its
acquisition of Deeley Trimble, which handles the company's vast employee
Finally, the PN/360 combination would reunite BellSouth with Bob Cohn
and Jim Overstreet, both of whom joined 360 from C&W last year.
BellSouth, headquartered in Atlanta, is a dominant telecommunications
brand with 44 million customers in the US and 16 other countries. Even
after divesting its wireless holding last year, it still ranks in the
top 25 of the Fortune 100.
The RFP calls for agencies to address the company's business component,
long distance services and corporate communications, including IR,
crisis and marketing communications, and regulatory affairs.