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FCB's Qwest Comeback

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CHICAGO -- Qwest's decision last week to pull its $100 million account from DDB Chicago and give it to Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago was written in the cards four months ago. Pitching the Denver company's $100 million account in April, FCB "nailed the strategy" with its focus on customer service and benefits, said Qwest's new svp of corporate communications, Joan Walker.

When Walker joined Qwest in July, she wasted little time reversing the decision to award DDB the business. Brought in by CEO Richard Notebaert, who took over the telco in June, Walker called FCB CEO Brendan Ryan on Aug. 1. They met on Aug. 5. DDB was fired three days later.

It was the second time Walker had dumped DDB. She held the same post under Notebaert at Ameritech from 1996-99. In an agency consolidation there, DDB Chicago was dropped.

FCB's win is "likely" to be followed by a shift of Qwest's media buying to Interpublic Group's Initiative Media, Walker said. But Initiative would have to clear the business with its $100 million-plus BellSouth client.

"There was nobody here who supported the move to DDB," Walker said of Qwest's management, which has changed significantly since the review. FCB's AT&T experience is expected to aid Qwest's long-distance launch, which could start by October.

Qwest, whose accounting practices are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, last week posted a $1.1 billion net loss for the second quarter.

DDB had formed a new unit for Qwest, DDBQ. Its 20 staffers will be place elsewhere at the shop, said DDB Chicago president Ray Gillette.