Citi's global media review fits the "members-only" approach of other recent searches in which outside agencies are not welcome.
In the case of Citi, whose global media spending is estimated at $450 million, it's a two-horse race. Primary U.S. incumbent MEC is competing against Publicis Groupe's Starcom, which handles media planning and buying in overseas markets, according to sources. (Starcom sister shop Razorfish plans and buys digital media in the U.S.)
Other roster shop-only contests in media include SC Johnson, which is currently reviewing global media buying, Coca-Cola and Wells Fargo, which completed its search in March. With Citi, those marketers collectively spend more than $2 billion in media annually. So, while the lineups are limited, the stakes are high.
Citi's search is in its early stages, with briefings expected next month. As such, the process will likely extend well into the summer.
The agencies either could not be reached or referred calls to Citi, which declined to comment.