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AirTouch Departure Is No Fault of Fitzgerald

Just over a week after seeing his shop zoom to $130 million in billings with the closing of the deal that made Fitzgerald & Co. a member of the Interpublic Group of Cos., president and chief executive officer Dave Fitzgerald reported his agency was losing its AirTouch Cellular business.
Fitzgerald said the split had nothing to do with the IPG deal in which his shop merged with the Atlanta office of McCann-Erickson. Instead, the client was leaving its Atlanta agency home of the last seven years due to a consolidation.
“This has been a long time coming,” Fitzgerald said last week. “They’re doing fine, their [profit] margins are terrific and they’ve been very open with us.”
The estimated $5 million account is being placed at Bozell in Detroit, according to Terry Tindel, executive vice president and general manager of AirTouch Cellular’s Eastern region. That territory consists of markets in eastern Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Georgia.
“We’re in the process of consolidating support functions,” Tindel said. “We have a good relationship with Bozell in Detroit, and we elected to place Atlanta’s promotional activities with that agency.”
Tindel added that AirTouch would continue to have personnel in the Atlanta market, even though the advertising account was moving out of town. Fitzgerald’s acquisition by IPG, he confirmed, was not a factor.
“[Leaving Fitzgerald] was independent of that,” Tindel said. “They’ve been with us for seven years, starting with us when we were PacTel Cellular. We have a long history, and Atlanta has been among the leaders [within AirTouch].”
“They’ve been an excellent client for seven years and we still enjoy a great relationship,” said Fitzgerald. “I hate the decision, but I can’t fault them for it.”
The loss of the AirTouch business does not remove Fitzgerald from the telecommunications arena. One of the advertising clients McCann-Erickson brought to the merger was Motorola Paging Systems.
Fitzgerald & Co. will continue to service the AirTouch account until May.