NEW YORK Interpublic Group, represented by Draftfcb and Lowe, has been cut from the holding companies participating in Emirates Airline's global account consolidation, sources said.
Client representatives could not immediately be reached.
Remaining in the competition are Publicis Groupe, with its Saatchi & Saatchi unit taking the lead and working with siblings like Leo Burnett; Omnicom, represented by BBDO; WPP Group's Grey; and Chime Communications, whose Bell Pottinger Sport and Sponsorship unit has worked with Emirates on efforts like the 2007 Rugby World Cup. The review aims to streamline the airline's global creative marketing services, including those beyond traditional advertising such as direct, digital and event marketing.
Emirates currently works with a multitude of agencies around the world, including Saatchi, BBDO and Grey as well as a virtual network of more than 100 marketing agencies, known as EmPower. The timing of the next set of agency presentations in the review could not be determined.
Last year, the airline consolidated global media duties at Publicis' Starcom MediaVest.
Agency reps either declined comment or could not be reached.
The business is pegged at $300 million-plus in billings, with a heavy emphasis on sports tied to Emirates' sponsorship of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, kicking off June 11 in South Africa. Steve Wheeler, Emirates' senior vice president, advertising and corporate communications, has been quoted as saying the current "evaluation will be completed in time to activate Emirates' sponsorship of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and to introduce a series of new services, destinations and aircraft."
Spending in U.S. measured media was about $5.5 million in 2008, per Nielsen. That does not include digital or direct outlays. But some sources believe that global number to be inflated and irrelevant compared to fees to be paid out to the holding company units.
"Look at the condition of the airline industry. I know [Emirates] has big ambitions, but I'd be amazed if they even spend $100 million," said one observer.
Others have questioned the financial underpinnings of the government-owned airline amid speculation about Dubai's economy, which is heavily dependent on real estate development, tourism and financial services, in the wake of the global economic crash.
While Emirates is not a well-known brand in the U.S., the airline is the industry's fastest growing, with annual growth rates of at least 20 percent since its 1985 inception. It began with two leased jets and now has a fleet of 135 aircraft and a current order book of more than 160 planes valued at $50 billion. Emirates wants to develop Dubai into a long-haul global aviation hub.