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4 Shops Chase Microsoft Project

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NEW YORK Four agencies have been briefed on a new creative assignment from Microsoft that sources said could be backed by as much as $50 million in media spending.

Sources identified the contenders as Microsoft lead agency McCann Erickson in San Francisco, WPP Group's JWT in New York, Publicis Groupe's Fallon in Minneapolis and MDC Partners' Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Miami.

Presentations are slated for next month, with a decision expected as early as January, said sources. The assignment is said to be consumer focused.

Fallon and JWT declined to comment, Crispin did not return calls and McCann referred calls to the Redmond, Wash.-based client, which confirmed the search but declined to discuss specific details.

"We are soliciting input from various agencies, including McCann Erickson, for a new upcoming consumer-orientated assignment," said a Microsoft representative.

The pitch will not affect the status of Microsoft's lead agency, and media duties for the new assignment would be handled by IPG's Universal McCann, the lead media shop, the rep added.

Microsoft's major media spending totaled $350 million last year and more than $200 million in the first eight months of 2007, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.