Budget: $85-90 million
Decision Date: By December Incumbent: Ammirati Puris Lintas, New York
Visa maintains its leadership position, accounting for about 54 percent of the total $416 billion in goods and services consumers charged last year, per Credit Card News. MasterCard is a distant second with around 34 percent, followed by Discover (9 percent) and American Express (3 percent). On the marketing front, Visa is continuing its "Everywhere" campaign that touts the card's wide acceptability. AmEx has become more aggressive, taking on Visa in its ads. MasterCard, meanwhile, recently launched an ad with the line, "The future of money" to emphasize the convenience of plastic.
When Ammirati Puris Lintas' new campaign to replace "Smart Money" tested poorly after a year in development, MasterCard put its U.S. ad account into review. Contenders will present an umbrella campaign that includes product-specific ads. Concepts will undergo extensive testing, both qualitative and quantitative, likely resulting in a protracted review. Nicholas Utton, the head of U.S. marketing, has gained control of the pitch after a struggle with the global marketing division over the parameters of the search. Utton's global marketing counterpart, Joe Tripodi, was present at credentials meetings leading some to believe that the scope of the review will be extended internationally. Morgan, Anderson & Co. is the consultant.
Leo Burnett, Chicago
Agency's Toronto office handles Visa, but claims that account does not conflict with this MasterCard assignment because the latter is limited to the U.S. market. Newly elevated chief creative officer Michael Conrad is pulling out all the stops to win this and vindicate Burnett's creative reputation, recently tarnished by the United Airlines and Miller Lite losses.
GSD&M, Austin, Texas
This single-office agency surprised many when it won MasterCard's U.S. media account in 1995. Since then, however, GSD&M has lost its key supporter, chief executive Gene Lockhart. Client's reliance on testing may not mesh well with GSD&M's less scientific approach. GSD&M's first ads for the debit card breaks in June and may be a good indicator of its chances.
Grey Advertising, New York
Blue chip packaged-goods experience got this agency invited to the pitch. Its global reach will be an edge if review expands overseas. Experience with financial services clients such as Ernst & Young is also a plus.
McCann-Erickson, New York
The pitch team will be led by Jim Heekin, president of McCann-Erickson North America. In addition to global network, McCann has a strong financial background and no credit card conflicts. It is a longtime Chase Manhattan agency and handles Smith Barney as well.
Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York
MVBMS' relationship with MasterCard began in January when the shop was hired to handle promotional marketing. The agency is well versed at reversing the fortunes of flagging brands, as evidenced by its work for Volvo and MCI. Leading the pitch are partners Barry Vetere and Ed Tedeschi.
PEARLE VISION CENTERS
Budget: $25 million
Decision Date: June
Incumbent: GSD&M, Austin, Texas
Cole National Corp., which owned more than 1,100 vision centers in department stores, acquired Pearle's 700-plus stores last November. Now with 1,800 units, Cole is one of world's largest optical retailers. The company intends to market the Pearle brand separately from its other operations. Pearle's key competitors are LensCrafters and EyeMasters, though a number of smaller regional companies are springing up. Analysts say chain stores will account for more than half of the $20 billion optical industry by the year 2000.
Vice president of marketing Philip Alexander, who held a similar post at Western Auto before joining Pearle in January, is said to be considering a shift away from image advertising to more promotions-oriented campaigns. The bulk of the incumbent's efforts was focused on building brand identity, positioning Pearle as the only national optical chain founded by an optometrist. The winning shop may be charged with finding a more potent point of difference to compete with the successful one-hour service positioning of LensCrafters.
W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Mich.
Geography may play to Doner's advantage since it is the only finalist with an office in Cleveland, where Pearle is moving its headquarters. The agency also had a six-year relationship in the 1980s with D.O.C. Optics Corp. Doner is likely to package that category insight with its experience for Lowe's, a home products retailer, and Hill's Department Stores.
McCann-Erickson, New York
Agency lacks the national retail and local-store marketing expertise that may benefit the other finalists, but it has done well on the new business front of late. Jim Heekin, president of McCann-Erickson North America, will be leading the pitch.
Ogilvy & Mather, Chicago
Ogilvy brings knowledge of Cole's operations to the pitch through its work for Sears, which houses Cole-owned optical units. That link to the client may give Ogilvy an edge, albeit a small one. The agency also has valuable category experience with EyeMasters, another Pearle competitor.
Publicis/Bloom, New York
Publicis could parlay its retail know-how from Woolworth or the work of its Dallas office for Zale Corp. and T.G.I Friday's into a case study for understanding the ins and outs of multi-store marketing and dealing with franchisees. New York shop, led by president Bob Kantor, has been on a winning streak, picking up five new accounts since December.
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