BellSouth narrows agency search but doesn't ring incumbent C&W

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

Titan Network.

'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

communications contract.

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.

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