AT&T Review Down to Wire After Last Week’s Pitches

Four agencies are anxiously awaiting word on the most hotly contested pitch of the year—media and creative duties for AT&T Wireless’ $400 million account.

TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., Fallon in Minneapolis and Ogilvy & Mather in New York last week squared off against FCB, here, whose San Francisco office is the four-year incumbent. The New York office stepped in to defend when the account went into review in March.

“It’s an amazing pitch,” one executive said. “All the agencies are high-powered, the category is leading-edge and high-profile, and there’s a com pany like AT&T in the middle of it. It’s got everything a pitch should have.”

Last week, AT&T executives visited each contender to hear three-hour presentations. The key decision makers are svp of marketing Kim Whitehead, who is based at the Kirkland, Wash., headquarters; vp of advertising Phil Jacobus; and ad manager Deborah Stymest. Consultant Mike Keeshan of consultancy MagiKbox also attended the meetings.

The contest began out West with TBWA\C\D’s pitch on Tuesday; Fallon went Wednesday; and Ogilvy presented on Thursday morning, followed by FCB that afternoon.

Some agency execs think Ogilvy, with its brand-building experience for clients such as AmEx and IBM, is the agency to beat. Ogilvy also enlisted the help of Stephen Graham, who was chief marketing officer at AT&T in Basking Ridge, N.J., until May 2000.

FCB tapped account planning consultant Regina Kelley to help with its pitch. Based in Westfield, N.J., Kelley was director of strategic planning until 1999 at Saatchi & Saatchi, where she had worked on the former Bell Atlantic account.

Fallon, which has only one global client in United Airlines, devoted a portion of its pitch to proving it could handle such a large, global client, sources said.

An AT&T representative said a decision would come in late June or early July. Agency sources said a selection could come as early as this week.