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Ask Jeeves Pits East Against West

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NEW YORK Ask Jeeves has narrowed its search for a creative shop to two agencies. Representing the West Coast is the incumbent, Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day in San Francisco, and on the East Coast is independent Hanft Unlimited in New York.

Sources said the Web portal plans a major post-review relaunch, with paid media spending to exceed $30 million. In February, Barry Diller's IAC paid $1.85 billion for Ask Jeeves, which it now looks to recast as the hub of its various Internet properties. Diller has suggested Ask Jeeves would be renamed, with an emphasis placed on the site's "Ask" capabilities.

Hanft Unlimited handles ad duties for IAC property Match.com. In February, Hanft broke a $25 million print and TV campaign that used emotional vignettes and pictures to position Match.com opposite online dating rival eHarmony.com, whose ads show its founder talking about the service's personality-profiling system. Hanft's work was tagged, "Love is complicated. Match.com is simple."

TBWA\C\D broke ads for Ask Jeeves in February, returning the Oakland, Calif.-based company to TV after an absence of four years. The effort touted Ask Jeeves as an authoritative source of information and featured "experts" on various topics, such as off-key American Idol contestant William Hung. That work was tagged, "Ask Jeeves. And get what you're searching for."

Cut from the review in a previous round were Interpublic Group's Mullen in Wenham, Mass., which handles advertising for IAC's LendingTree.com and TripAdvisor.com; Omnicom's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco; and independent Butler Shine Stern & Partners in Sausalito, Calif., according to sources.

Neither shops nor the client returned calls seeking comment. The client in recent years has spent about $5 million annually on ads, down from a high of $20 million in 2000, at the crest of the dot-com boom, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.