Visa Confirms Global Review

NEW YORK Roster shops from several holding companies are competing in a review of Visa’s global creative duties — a process designed to consolidate the business within a single holding company, the client confirmed today.

Currently, a half-dozen agencies handle lead creative duties on Visa in different parts of the world, including Omnicom Group’s TBWA\Chiat\Day in the U.S., WPP Group’s Grey in Central and Eastern Europe and Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett in Canada.

The company last year spent about $525 million in major measured media worldwide, including more than $360 million in the U.S alone, according to Nielsen Global AdView and Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

“As a newly public company, Visa is undertaking a thorough review of its global agency partnerships,” Visa said, in a statement. “The review is limited to incumbent holding companies because Visa believes this provides us with a strong field of potential partners that understand our business and have a proven ability to support our activities worldwide.

“The goal is to identify creative synergies and cost efficiencies by consolidating all our activities under one partnership with a single holding company. We are confident that this process will allow us to identify a stable of first-class talent that can work collaboratively to build and execute campaigns that drive measurable business results and enhance the Visa brand worldwide.”

Client executives are expected to brief contenders on Wednesday and Thursday of next week. Those briefings will take place at Visa’s headquarters in San Francisco, per sources.

A series of agency-client work sessions are slated for late July and final presentations are scheduled for mid-September, said sources. In its statement, Visa said only that the process would be completed in the fall.

The review is said to exclude Visa Europe, an independently operated association of European banks that issues Visa cards and whose lead agency is Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi. As such, Saatchi is not expected to participate in the global contest. The agency declined to comment.

Visa’s other lead creative agencies regionally include Omnicom’s BBDO, which handles the brand in the Asia-Pacific region.

It was not immediately clear if Omnicom sister shops TBWA and BBDO would partner or compete head-to-head for the business. Another possibility: Omnicom could select a single shop to represent it, said sources.

Grey and Leo Burnett are believed to be representing WPP and Publicis Groupe, respectively.

It was also unclear if Visa is seeking to consolidate more than advertising duties. Some sources see this as an ad drill, while others expect Visa to also review other services, such as interactive and direct marketing.

The agencies declined to comment and referred calls to the client, who, through an outside public relations representative, had no immediate response to questions about the scope, contenders and Europe’s apparent exclusion.

The competition follows a lengthy review of media planning and buying duties around the world, which Omnicom’s OMD and WPP’s Mediaedge:cia won. OMD kept its U.S. and Asian duties and added Latin America and parts of Europe, while MEC retained its European business.

A few months into that process, which began in August 2007 and ended in May 2008, Visa named PepsiCo’s Antonio Lucio as its first global chief marketing officer.

Lucio, who is spearheading the creative review, was appointed in November, assuming duties previously held by U.S. CMO Susanne Lyons and evp, global brand marketing John Elkins. Both Lyons and Elkins left Visa last year.

Visa became a public company on March 19, via an initial public offering. The company’s share price closed today at $84.67 on below-average trading volume of 8.3 million; the average volume in the past three months is 18.7 million, per Yahoo Finance.