Citizens Mulls Direct

Citizens Bank is conducting a review for a wide-ranging direct-marketing assignment valued at $6-7 million.

More than 20 agencies have responded to a request for proposals that was issued approximately two weeks ago.

Sigma Marketing Group in Roch ester, N.Y., which has handled the business for about five years, and Arnold in Boston, which handles Citizens’ media, are among the initial respondees. No portion of Arnold’s current assignment is included in the review.

Citizens is conducting the review without an outside consultant; a decision is expected by early April.

The bank is looking to strengthen its position in the Northeast following the acquisition of Pittsburgh-based Mellon Bank last summer, said Theresa McLaughlin, executive vp of marketing at Citizens. “Direct marketing is a [large] part of what we do and will become an even bigger part,” McLaughlin said, referring to Sigma as “a terrific partner.” But she noted that after five years with one agency, it was time for Citizens to look at all its options.

McLaughlin said Citizens is examining agencies with strong data base and direct-marketing experience. Size is not an important factor.

As New England’s second-largest commercial bank, Citizens operates about 800 branches in Massa chusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Arnold will remain the client’s principal agency resource, a position it picked up in 2001.

Last month the shop broke a TV effort aimed at former Mellon customers in Pennsylvania. The tag is, “Not your typical bank.”