Chase Media Account Goes Into Review After All

NEW YORK Apparently, the search is on after all. Less than a week after declaring its media planning and buying account consolidated at lead agency Carat in New York [Adweek, Sept. 6], Chase bank has launched a review for the estimated $300 million business, sources said.

The week before last, Manning Field, first vp of brand management for the JPMorgan Chase & Co. unit, said of the prospect of a review: “At this point, it doesn’t appear to be so. … We may at some point in time take a look at what’s out there. That’s an option we’ll always keep open, but [Carat is] our agency right now, and they’ll continue doing work for us today, and they’ll be doing work for us tomorrow.”

Last week, however, the client sent letters to undisclosed media shops indicating that “with the closing of the JPMorgan Chase and Bank One merger on July 1 of this year, JPMorgan Chase has become the second largest bank in the U.S. with over $1.1 trillion in assets under management. We have decided to leverage the Chase brand for our consumer facing businesses. Recently we just completed a creative review and have selected mcgarrybowen as our creative agency partner. The next step in our process is to place our media account in review.”

Carat, the incumbent media agency on Bank One, has been the merged entity’s main planner and buyer. Bank One totaled $135 million in ad spending in 2003, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. In addition, Carat is handling all media duties for Chase card services and Chase retail services, which Field has called the two big spenders in the combined entity. Interpublic Group’s Initiative in New York has also handled some buying for the Chase brand, which spent around $20 million last year, per Nielsen.

Across all of its brands, JPMorgan spent $240 million on advertising in 2003. But the Chase account is expected to grow considerably as the Bank One retail and credit-card operations are folded in next year. One source said the lion’s share of the increased adspend will go to credit-card advertising.

The media RFP states: “Our decision will be based on who is the best partner to provide thought leadership and cost control enabling Chase to build a national brand while maintaining a strong retail focus.”

Field declined to comment on the conflicting review signals. But as one agency executive noted, “Nobody is going to hand anything over [without a review] in this day and age.”

Executives at Carat and Initiative were unavailable for comment. The financial-services category is heavily represented among the top media shops, with most already handling conflicting bank or credit-card accounts. That list includes Publicis Groupe’s Starcom (Discover Card and Bank of America) and MediaVest (Capital One); WPP Group’s MindShare (American Express) and Mediaedge:cia (Citibank); Omnicom Group’s OMD (Visa); and IPG’s Universal McCann (MasterCard).

The Chase review team will include seven client executives, according to the RFP, including evps Michael Cleary and Carter Franke, svps Jeff Spencer, David Clifton and David Nolan, plus Field and first vp Kelly Reed.

Credentials meetings are slated for later this month, with a cut to finalists by the end of September and presentations in New York in October. It is not known when the client expects to make a decision.

In the creative review, mcgarrybowen, a New York independent, bested three other contenders: Omnicom’s BBDO in New York, which teamed with sister shop Proximity; IPG’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston and New York, which partnered with sibling FutureBrand; and another New York independent, Gardner Nelson + Partners, the incumbent on Bank One, sources said. Chase’s creative incumbents, IPG’s Foote Cone & Belding in New York and The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., did not participate [Adweek, Sept. 6].