IBM Revisits 1994 as It Consolidates Global PR

Some 40 agencies will be cut from IBM’s roster in a move reminiscent of the company’s 1994 consolidation of its $500 million global advertising account.

This time, though, IBM’s public relations agencies are competing for a coveted assignment.

Last week, IBM said that by September it will narrow its PR partners from about 50 to three or fewer. And while the scope of the review is similar to the earlier account consolidation, billings are more modest, estimated around $40 million, sources said.

Edward Barbini, a representative for the Armonk, N.Y.-based com puter giant confirmed the review but would not comment on billings.

He described the consolidation as “a major strategic shift” and said the reason for it was to “align [agencies] with our three core business areas: products, solutions and technology. We’re moving from a more decentralized structure to fewer relationships that are much more in tune with IBM’s strategy.”

The review began in March and is being managed by Peter Osgood, a partner in the New York-based consultancy Osgood O’Donnell & Walsh. He could not be reached.

Barbini said the three largest PR firms on IBM’s roster are Interpublic Group of Cos.’ TSI Communications, Omnicom’s Brodeur World wide and Bcom3’s Manning, Selvage & Lee. Sources said even larger, nonroster agencies are vying for the business.

Barbini would not comment on any of the contenders or how many were still in the running.

Other PR shops working with IBM include Edelman, CCMR Advertising, Clark & Co., Panoramic’s Earle Palmer Brown Public Relations, Grey Global Group’s GCI, Omnicom’s Gavin Anderson & Co., Havas’ Magnet Communications, IPG’s BSMG and Bianchi PR.

IBM is the world’s leading provider of computer hardware, including PCs, notebooks, mainframes, and network servers. It is also the No. 2 developer of software behind Microsoft.