$2.3 Bil. AT&T Media to MEC

NEW YORK AT&T has consolidated media chores on its estimated $2.3 billion account at WPP Group’s Mediaedge:cia following a review.

Along with MEC, four others had handled the business: Digitas, GSD&M Idea City, Initiative and OMD. All of the shops initially pitched, but Initiative exited the competition in September owing to a conflict between AT&T and Verizon, per sources.

Commenting on the decision, Wendy Clark, svp, advertising, at AT&T said that MEC’s track record on Cingular Wireless the past three years greatly helped the shop’s case during the review. “Wireless is the growth engine of our business, and Mediaedge is credited with much of the success the Cingular property has achieved,” she said. “They demonstrated to us how they could expand upon that, adding in the other business units to grow our business and maximize our position in the marketplace.”

Beyond that, Clark said MEC’s “digital assets and insights were very impressive. They really have a stronghold in the marketplace and a very clear vision of the media marketplace of the future. “

OMD, which held the newspaper portion of the client’s wireless business, is now leaving the roster, Clark confirmed. Digitas, which pitched the entire account by teaming with sibling Starcom MediaVest Group, is losing digital media duties but remains on the roster with some creative chores. Other Digitas duties, including some analytics assignments, “remain to be determined,” she said.

The client retains the Dallas-based event marketing company The Marketing Arm for non-media sponsorship opportunities, although MEC will “have a seat at the table” to discuss many of those projects and will negotiate all media-related sponsorships, such as the client’s partnership with Fox’s American Idol, Clark said.

While MEC will handle some branded entertainment duties, AT&T retains Omnicom’s Davy Brown, the product integration specialist, on its roster. The two shops will collaborate on some projects, Clark said. “The line can gray” about who does what on some projects, she said.

While Omnicom’s GSD&M Idea City loses its media chores, it retains the creative consumer assignments it has at AT&T, as well work on the Yellow Pages and Yellowpages.com accounts.

The win is a coup for Lee Doyle, who was promoted to CEO of MEC North America earlier this year. MEC in New York will handle the AT&T account. Sources said the agency might add close to 100 new staffers to service the business.

The company spent $2.3 billion in U.S. measured media in 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Various other promotional and sponsorship duties not involving paid media are also involved.

Up to now, the media work had been divided among the incumbents thusly:

– Omnicom’s GSD&M in Austin, Texas: All media planning and buying (including digital) for the AT&T landline service.

– Interpublic’s Initiative in New York: Media chores for the nine-state Southern region, formerly known as BellSouth, which AT&T acquired late last year.

– MEC in New York: Planning and buying for AT&T Wireless (formerly known as Cingular).

– Omnicom’s OMD in New York: Print on AT&T wireless.

– Publicis Groupe’s Digitas in Boston: Digital chores.

Select Resources International, Santa Monica, Calif., assisted the client with the review process.

This story updates and replaces an item posted earlier today with client confirmation of MEC’s selection and other details.