Bank Deals Could Leave Agencies in Limbo

LOS ANGELES Today’s news that Citigroup would absorb Wachovia Bank — possibly subsuming its identity — has led the client to “pause” the finalization of its deal with WPP’s Ogilvy & Mather, hired by Wachovia on Friday following a review.

Similarly, it appears that the Washington Mutual brand will be subsumed and potentially eradicated under its agreement to be acquired by JP Morgan Chase. Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day won WaMu’s $135 million account a year ago. The agency here declined comment.

The Citi-Wachovia situation, however, was the news of the day in light of the recently wrapped up high-profile advertising review in which a team led by Ogilvy bested an effort led by its WPP sibling Young & Rubicam.

“Wachovia has paused its finalization of its agreement with Ogilvy,” said Mary Beth Navarro, a Wachovia representative. “We will work closely with our Ogilvy partners and our future colleagues at Citigroup to determine the best way to support our brands and our businesses going forward.”

In its investor/analyst call today, Citi did not commit to retaining the Wachovia name on branches, even while acknowledging that the number of locations would jump from Citi’s 1,000-plus to over 4,000, and combined deposits would rise exponentially. Vikram Pandit, head of Citi’s investment bank, would only comment, “It is a great brand, a respected brand,” and added that a “transition team will look at all the issues, and brand is one of them.” Other Citi officials praised the strength of the Wachovia brand, its “best-in-class service” and “customer-centric model.”

Wachovia spent $145 million on ads last year, mainly through longtime lead shop Mullen, a unit of IPG. In a statement that perhaps foreshadowed today’s revelation, Wachovia last week noted in its statement confirming Ogilvy’s hire that its media spending “would likely be smaller in 2009 compared to 2008 given market conditions.”

According to a source, the advertising of the brand transition would likely be left to Citi’s incumbent, Publicis USA in New York.

Under terms of the $2.2 billion deal, the general bank – including wealth-management and retail, corporate and investment banking services — would move to Citi.

Some Wachovia-branded enterprises could continue, however, including Wachovia’s Securities, Evergreen Investments, Retirement and Securities Services.

Navarro declined to speculate on whether advertising would continue. Ogilvy referred calls to the client.