Hoping to leverage the financial services expertise of its parent agency, Hill, Holliday Direct has reached the final round of the review for First Union Corp.'s estimated $30 million direct marketing account.
Also advancing were Communications Plus in New York and Earle Palmer Brown in Philadelphia, according to review consultant Skip Pile of Pile and Co. in Boston. Eliminated from contention were three New York agencies: FCB Direct, JWT Direct and The Colligan Group.
The three finalists are scheduled to make presentations to First Union officials in mid-February. A decision is slated for the end of the month, Pile said. Hal Riney & Partners in San Francisco, which handles First Union's consumer ad account, is not affected by the review.
One of the nation's 10 largest banking organizations with $168 billion in overall assets, First Union in Charlotte, N.C., wants to consolidate its direct marketing business with one or two agencies. The review covers First Union's corporate direct marketing account and some product assignments.
It is likely, however, that $10-20 million in additional direct marketing billings will be added once the bank's acquisition of Philadelphia-based CoreStates Financial Corp. is concluded in the first quarter of this year. Once completed, that merger will create a banking organization with some 2,500 branches and more than $210 billion in assets.
Earle Palmer Brown now handles direct and media ad assignments for CoreStates. Communications Plus, the smallest contender with about 80 employees and $70 million in billings, has worked for Chemical Bank and GE Capital in Boston.
Hill, Holliday Direct parent Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos has the most wide-ranging financial services experience. Hill Holliday is currently the lead agency for Fidelity Investments, John Hancock Financial Services and BankBoston, which last week consolidated its $25 million account at the Boston shop.