3 Shops Pitch AOL $100 Mil. Assignment

NEW YORK America Online is opening up its ad account again to agencies, and the assignment is worth about $100 million, sources said. Omnicom siblings BBDO and DDB, both New York, and independent Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., have been meeting with the client and are each scheduled to present ideas to the Dulles, Va. client “within the next few weeks,” sources said.

AOL head of marketing Len Short said the current competition had always been part of the company’s plan, but two sources characterized the process as a “repitch”
saying there is dissatisfaction with BBDO’s broadband campaign and that the new ideas being sought for the umbrella campaign could supplant that effort. That campaign, tagged, “Welcome to the world wide wow,” features Sharon Stone and “the running man” and broke in March.

Short denied any dissatisfaction with BBDO or the campaign. He said: “This is a two-stage game. And I’m dead serious about stage one and I’m dead serious about stage two.” He added that two new spots from BBDO would break on Monday and that the campaign had achieved all of its objectives.

When AOL awarded the broaddband assignment to BBDO, that agency and Wieden were still in contention for a corporate assignment. But now DDB is back in the game and the assignment appears to have grown. Earlier, the broadband assignment was believed to be the bigger of the two, but now sources said the portion currently at stake is worth $100 million.

According to one source, DDB has been invited back into the review in part because of its hiring of Lee Garfinkel as New York creative director. Garfinkel, who had worked with Short previously, didn’t join the shop until after the initial pitch was concluded.

BBDO executives declined comment. Media, handled by IPG’s Initiative Media, New York, is unaffected.

This story updates a previously posted item