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BBDO Gains Site; Seeks Portal

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Agency Wins FT.com; Appears to Be Favorite for Internet Provider
NEW YORK--EarthLink and MindSpring are closer to determining which of their respective ad agencies will handle their combined account if their proposed merger goes through as planned early next year. Combined billings could be close to $100 million, according to one agency source.
BBDO West, which handles EarthLink and has created a $2-3 million test campaign for EarthLink that is currently running in key markets, appears to have the edge, according to sources.
The budget for the EarthLink account is about $50 million.
Fallon McElligott here won the estimated $25 million MindSpring account in May.
Officials with the agency denied reports of a pending decision, as did executives with Atlanta-based MindSpring. "It's business as usual," said a company representative. "They [Fallon] are doing some [advertising] for us right now."
Another source said that "no changes can be made until after the merger," which is still awaiting approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission and is expected to be resolved at the end of the first quarter.
The combined entity would create the second-largest Internet-service provider, behind America Online.
Executives at EarthLink, based in Pasadena, Calif., could not be reached for comment by press time.
In another development, BBDO last week won advertising duties for FT.com, the Web site for the London-based Financial Times.
Billings are estimated at $40 million. According to Competitive Media Reporting, the site spent only $1 million on media last year. In a questionnaire that was sent out during the review in September, the client stated that it was looking for a "global audience of high-value business users." The client said it wants to position itself as "your partner in business."
The review came down to BBDO and Foote, Cone & Belding in New York, sources said.
AAR/Bob Wolf Partners oversaw the FT.com review.
The site now claims about 2 million registered users and approximately 500,000 monthly visitors. U.S. users account for 20 percent of its total traffic.
Delaney Fletcher Bozell, London, handles global advertising for the Financial Times newspaper but did not participate in the review.
---with Andrew McMains