BellSouth in Review

Continuing its drive toward consolidation, BellSouth is conducting a review of the media planning portion of its business, now split among roster shops. Billings are estimated between $120 million and $150 million.
Last week, BellSouth shops received a request for proposal that spelled out the review process, the client confirmed. The review is being managed by Marci Raible, media director at the Atlanta client.
“It’s one more step in our strategy of consolidation, cost reductions and enhanced effectiveness,” said Lila Silva, BellSouth spokesperson.
BellSouth uses more than a dozen agencies for above- and below-the-line duties. Sources indicated, however, that core shops such as Merkley Newman Harty in New York, WestWayne in Atlanta and Long Haymes Carr in Winston-Salem, N.C., were best positioned to pitch the business. Initiative Media North America, which has buying duties, also touts planning skills.
Silva declined to elaborate on the review process, other than to indicate that a winner would be announced “in a couple of months.”
MNH handles corporate image advertising. WestWayne has most of BellSouth’s cellular business in the South, plus its Yellow Pages and local Internet portal. LHC does cellular ads in the Carolinas, eastern Tennessee and coastal Georgia.
Last year, through November, BellSouth spent $96 million on advertising, per Competitive Media Reporting. For 1998, ad expenditures exceeded $136 million.
BellSouth’s last review–for corporate image duties–also was driven by a desire to consolidate. Business previously split between MNH and WestWayne ended up at at the former [Adweek, Nov. 22, 1999].
In 1996, BellSouth consolidated its buying at Initiative, then Western International Media Worldwide, after a review. Other finalists were Creative Media in New York, LHC and WestWayne.