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Updated: 5 Chase Pizza Hut

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NEW YORK Pizza Hut has selected five finalists to pitch its creative account and longtime incumbent BBDO is not among them, the client has confirmed.

Pizza Hut initially identified the contenders as Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi; Interpublic Group units The Martin Agency and McCann Erickson; Omnicom Group's Merkley + Partners; and MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners.

Subsequently, however, representatives from Pizza Hut and McCann Erickson said that units of McCann Worldgroup are pursuing the account, not McCann proper. The reps identified those units as William Morris Endeavor -- including William Morris Endeavor Marketing -- and Momentum.

All are pitching from their New York offices except for The Martin Agency, which is pursuing the account from its headquarters in Richmond, Va.

Pizza Hut and Omnicom Group's BBDO, which has worked on the account since 1987, described the agency's exit as a withdrawal, even though it came as the client was cutting to finalists. On Tuesday, the client rep confirmed that BBDO was participating in the review.

"For more than two decades, BBDO has partnered with Pizza Hut to help create some of the most famous and effective advertising in the category," a BBDO representative said, in a statement. "From the record-setting successes of the Big New Yorker and Stuffed Crust Pizza to last year's launch of Tuscani Pastas, we are proud of helping to make Pizza Hut what it is today: the leading brand in its category."

Pizza Hut chief marketing officer Brian Niccol said in a separate statement: "After 20 years of partnership, we are grateful for the work BBDO has done for us, which is among the best in the industry."
 
As for the finalists, Niccol said: "We have a solid lineup of five agencies that have the expertise, creativity and consumer-insights driven strategy that we are seeking as a company. . . . We are looking forward to a fresh perspective to our advertising."
 
Client executives will brief the contenders next week at Pizza Hut's headquarters in Dallas. The process is expected to be completed in December.

The brand's major media spending totaled $275 million last year and $144 million in the first seven months of 2009, according to Nielsen. Those figures don't include online spending.

Pizza Hut is using a New York-based consultant to manage the search: Lee Anne Morgan & Partners, an affiliate of Morgan Anderson Consulting, which is partnering with Alan Krinsky.

This story updates an earlier item with client confirmation and additional details.