PR In Mix For New Card-Co. Project

Visa International said last week that the overseas assignment it has contacted agencies about is more PR-driven than advertising-oriented.

John Elkins, the Foster City, Calif.-based client’s evp of brand management, began soliciting credentials last week from ad agencies, according to sources.

It could not be determined if WPP’s Burson-Marsteller and Omnicom’s Fleishman-Hillard, two PR shops on the Visa roster, had been approached. Both referred calls to the client, which said Visa International is not looking to replace them.

One source estimated the budget for the assignment, which is focused on the Far East and Europe, at $40 million; another source pegged it at $30 million. But a Visa rep said no budget had been determined, adding that the company is “developing a corporate-reputation initiative that may include an advertising component at a later stage.” The rep said Visa has not issued an RFP.

If the assignment is mainly PR, it is curious, then, that the client contacted large, global ad agencies which sources said include Omnicom’s BBDO, which handles the $300 million Visa USA account, as well as roster shops Saatchi & Saatchi (Europe, Middle East and Africa), Publicis sibling Leo Burnett (Latin America) and Grey Global Group’s Grey (Central Europe). The client also contacted WPP’s Young & Rubicam, a non-roster shop, said sources.

The agencies either could not be reached or declined comment.

One source said the gist of the assignment involves reaching government leaders and opinion makers overseas, but would not be more specific.

Ads in Europe have carried the themeline, “The future takes Visa,” a nod to the company’s push into multifunctional chip cards for electronic money transactions.