Shaking the Trees

NEW YORK Banks, credit card companies, lenders, an online brokerage and now, none other than a stock exchange, NYSE Euronext, have made for a busy year of financial services reviews. Sources expect the flurry to continue, given the ongoing, topsy-turvy dynamic in the financial markets.

Since January, some nine clients in the financial sector representing more than $1 billion in major measured media spending have gone into play, compared to seven clients spending $445 million in the first half of 2007, according to an Adweek analysis. Among the largest are a global creative review for Visa ($525 million), a U.S. creative and media review for Wachovia ($145 million) and a U.S. media review for Discover Financial Services ($85 million). NYSE Euronext is the latest and is said to be conducting a global review of creative and media duties with estimated worldwide media spending of $25 million.

Each contest comes with its own set of circumstances, including changes in client marketing ranks. Market conditions have also fueled activity, according to consultants and agency new business chiefs, as finance-related companies find their previous strategic positionings less appropriate for the times.

“They’re looking for new answers,” said Michael Duda, chief corporate strategy officer at Interpublic Group’s Deutsch here.

Competition among rivals may also have been a factor in the recent reviews. “They all watch each other,” so “there’s also the ripple effect if one [company] changes” its agency, said Richard Roth of Roth Associates, a search consultancy in New York. Or, as another consultant put it: “It makes other people in the category think, ‘OK, maybe we need to be doing something.'”

Among the financial companies that have been in play this year are three banks: Wachovia, Citizens Bank, which conducted a media review, and SunTrust, which launched a creative and media review last week (see Account Activity above right).

New York consultancy Ark Advisors is managing NYSE Euronext’s search, which sources said is in its early stages. Sources expect Ark to issue a request for proposals in the coming weeks and, based on responses, the client will select about six agencies to visit. NYSE Euronext will then narrow the field to about three finalists. Final presentations are scheduled for late October.

The New York-based NYSE Euronext uses Publicis Groupe’s Fallon in Minneapolis for creative and media duties in the U.S., where the client spent $15 in major media last year, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. In international markets, the client uses various agencies on a project basis, said sources. Ark did not return calls, and an exchange spokesman declined to comment.