Sprint Weighs 2 Shops

By Joan Voight and Scott Hume

SAN FRANCISCO–Two finalists have been chosen by telecommunications giant Sprint to compete for its consolidated interactive marketing account.

The duo named last week was Valentine-McCormick-Ligibel in Kansas City, Mo.; and Eagle River Interactive in Avon, Colo., sources said. Annual account billings are estimated at $10-15 million.

A third finalist, CKS Partners in Cupertino, Calif., withdrew from the review last week.

The client’s roster agencies, J. Walter Thompson in San Francisco and Grey Advertising in New , were among 16 shops from around the country initially invited to participate in the search, according to sources. Grey did not make the short list of six agencies, and JWT was cut before the final round.

Executives at all the agencies and officials at Kansas City, Mo.-based Sprint declined comment or could not be reached.

Previously, Sprint’s Web site and interactive marketing had been handled by about 10 agencies, including the roster shops, on a project basis, said sources at Sprint.

VML has done various interactive tasks for the Kansas City, Mo., client, including maintaining its Web site. Sprint opted to bundle all the on-line projects into a single account to ensure consistency in the work.

The winning agency will be charged with overseeing content and creative development of the Web site and other multimedia and CD-ROM initiatives. Additional duties will include on-line media buying and strategic planning for Sprint’s new interactive products and services.

The account does not involve advertising for Sprint Passport, the telecommunications company’s Internet access service. That business is handled by JWT. DraftDirect Worldwide in Chicago, which handles direct marketing for Sprint, opted not to participate in the interactive review.

Final presentations are slated for the end of July……–with John Spooner

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