Search Engine In Talks With CP+B

NEW YORK is in final negotiations with MDC Partners’ Crispin Porter + Bogusky and could disclose as soon as this week that it has hired the Miami shop to work on its account, sources said.

The client, a unit of Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp, spent nearly $40 million on domestic ads through the first half of 2006 after spending $25 million all of last year, per TNS Media Intelligence.

TBWA\Chiat\Day in San Francisco, an Omnicom Group unit, serves as lead agency on the business.

A representative at TBWA\C\D in New York referred questions to client officials, who declined comment late Wednesday.

CP+B executives could not immediately be reached.

TBWA\C\D has held the business (formerly known as Ask Jeeves) since 2003, and retained the account in a review that ended last December [Adweek Online, Dec. 22].

That contest began during the summer, and client executives talked to several shops (including Interpublic Group’s Mullen, Omnicom’s Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and independent Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners) before zeroing in on the incumbent and Hanft Unlimited in New York.

IAC acquired Ask Jeeves for $1.9 billion in March 2005. The Oakland, Calif.-based company shed “Jeeves” from its name in February, as well as its butler mascot.

In recent ads for the search engine, TBWA\C\D has trumpeted positive feedback from reviewers like Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg. has struggled to grab market share in the search space, which has been dominated by Google and, to a lesser extent, Yahoo. In July, attracted 5 percent of all searches, down from 6 percent a year earlier. Google accounted for 44 percent of the market.

Stealing market share from Google, which does not advertise its service in broadcast media, has proven difficult. Microsoft launched a TV, print, radio and online blitz to lure searchers to MSN’s new search engine when it launched in January 2005, yet it ended up losing market share to Google.

Another Diller-run property, online travel service, this week tapped independent Doner for its $170 million business [Adweek Online, Sept. 6]. That assignment had been with IPG’s Deutsch/LA.

—with Eleftheria Parpis and David Gianatasio