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Amtrak Launches Agency Search

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ATLANTA Amtrak has placed its $27 million ad account into review.

The client has sent requests for proposals to 16 Northeast and mid-Atlantic agencies, according to Amtrak representative Karina Van Veen. That paperwork is due back on Thursday.

Amtrak has queried shops located within a day's car trip from its home base in Washington, D.C., Van Veen said. The search has gone as far south as Richmond, Va., but mainly targets New York and Baltimore. The client is not working with a consultant on the process, which is scheduled to finish in June.

Incumbent White & Baldacci is defending, said Matt White, CEO of the independent shop in Herndon, Va. W&B handles creative and media duties, both of which are up for grabs.

Amtrak is seeking shops able to craft different campaigns for different regional areas, as well as multicultural efforts, sources said.

W&B has worked for Amtrak since 1978. It was given the lion's share of the account in late 2001 after Amtrak parted with Ogilvy & Mather, New York, a few months after tapping the WPP Group shop. At that time, the client was spending an estimated $35 million on ads. Prior to O&M's selection, Omnicom's DDB, New York, handled Amtrak for nearly 20 years.

Other shops on the Amtrak roster for promotions and niche marketing assignments include The Godwin Group, Jackson, Miss., and the Chisholm-Mingo Group and Source Communications, both in New York.