CVS Search Progresses Quickly

CVS, the nation’s largest discount pharmacy chain, is preparing to move some or all of its $35 million advertising business from Bates in New York—and the shift could come as soon as this week, sources said.

Client executives met with undisclosed shops last week at CVS headquarters in Woonsocket, R.I., and a decision is expected to be made quickly, sources said.

It is unclear whether Bates will defend. A CVS representative declined comment, as did officials at Cordiant’s Bates. (See related Cordiant story in National News.)

Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Bos ton, may have the inside track, sources said. Working in Hill, Holliday’s favor is the presence of FleetBoston chairman Terry Murray on CVS’ board of directors, sources said. (FleetBoston is the Interpublic Group agency’s largest client.) Another plus, sources said, is the fact that Hill, Holliday recently began working on “relationship marketing projects” for CVS, sources said.

Hill, Holliday representative Eileen O’Connor offered no information about CVS.

Driving the process is the client’s dissatisfaction with Bates’ creative performance, as well as executive changes at CVS, sources said.

One month ago, Helena Foulkes was pro moted to svp, advertising and marketing. A 10-year CVS veteran, she wants to hire a local agency large enough to handle the business.

Agencies meeting that criteria are Hill, Holliday, crosstown shop Arnold and Mullen in Wenham, Mass. It is unclear if Arnold or Mullen have spoken with CVS. —with Mae Anderson and Ann M. Mack