Initiative Exits AT&T Pitch

NEW YORK Interpublic Group’s Initiative has exited the estimated $2.3 billion AT&T media review.

The agency said it withdrew, citing the client’s conflict policy.

Initiative did not disclose the source of the conflict, but sources said it was AT&T rival Verizon, whose media chores are handled in part by Initiative sister shop Universal McCann.

The client confirmed the media review in late August, indicating that it had invited five media roster shops, including Initiative, to compete. Also invited were: Omnicom’s OMD and GSD&M Idea City, WPP’s Mediaedge:cia and Publicis Groupe’s Digitas.

Sources said those four shops remain in contention, though a client rep did not immediately respond to queries to confirm their participation.

Initiative’s piece of the AT&T media business covered the nine-state Southern region, formerly known as Bell South, which AT&T acquired late last year.

“We are proud of the work we have done for Bell South and regret that we are unable to go forward in the AT&T consolidated media review,” Initiative said in a statement. “In light of the conflict policy communicated to us during the briefing process, it would not be possible for us to draw all of the resources across Interpublic that are required to best meet the client’s needs.”

Currently, GSD&M handles media planning and buying (including digital) for the AT&T landline service. MEC does planning and buying for AT&T Wireless (formerly known as Cingular). Print media chores on AT&T Wireless are with OMD.

The company spent $2.3 billion in U.S. measured media in 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

A client rep last month said the review was prompted by the Bell South acquisition and the desire to “maximize efficiencies under a single-agency model.” The rep said non-roster shops were not being invited to pitch the business.