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Brown Shapes Field

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Brown & Co. is in the process of winnowing down a list of "about a half-dozen" semifinalists for its estimated $7-10 million ad account, accord ing to Laurie McLachlan, vp, marketing manager at the discount brokerage.

McLachlan did not provide a complete list of contenders, but she did say the Boston-based client, a unit of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., looks to name three finalists within the next few weeks.

In the running, according to sources, are Boston shops Gearon Hoffman (the incumbent) and Partners & Simons; New York agencies DiMas simo Brand Advertising, Foote, Cone & Belding (which works for Chase), Gotham, TBWA\Chiat\ Day and The Romann Group; and Portland, Maine-based Via. One or two other agencies may also be contending, sources said.

Some shops have already met with client officials to present credentials and discuss capabilities, while others are scheduled to do so during the next few weeks, sources said. A decision is expected in the fall.

Though the cli ent has never addressed the motivation behind the review, sources said Brown seeks new creative approaches to help it compete in an increasingly crowded field against Charles Schwab & Co., Datek, E*Trade and others.

Gearon Hoffman has handled the account for 20 years. Most recently, the shop created broadcast and print ads tagged, "I believe in the market. I believe in me." Experienced traders who do not need detailed advice and instruction have been targeted and will remain the focus of future campaigns. —with Andrew McMains and Kristen Rountree