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Joint Pitch for Wiz Is Dry Run for Buyout Deal

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NEW YORK -- Cliff Freeman and Jordan Zimmerman are using The Wiz review as a litmus test for how well their agencies work together in preparation for a possible acquisition, sources said.

Both Cliff Freeman and Partners and Zimmerman & Partners confirmed they had partnered for the pitch but denied that it was intended to lead to a long-term relationship.

The partnership is an extension of talks held earlier this year between New York-based Cliff Freeman and Omnicom-owned Zimmerman.

"We are jointly pitching The Wiz," confirmed Charles Rosen, director of new business development at Cliff Freeman, adding that Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based Zimmerman has "certain expertise in regional retail accounts, and their in-store efforts and tracking capabilities are a perfect complement to our mass-market communications."

Rosen said that if they win the account, Cliff Freeman will manage the business. "Everything will go through us," said Rosen. Zimmerman concurred, adding that the team effort has nothing to do with a possible acquisition. "It's about what's best for the client," he said.

Sources said that Freeman will not sell before October, which marks the three-year anniversary of his buyback from Saatchi & Saatchi. Under those terms, Freeman is required to pay Saatchi a percentage of his shop's sale price, but that figure decreases each year following the October 1999 buyback. Sources said that number was as high as 20 percent but is more likely to be closer to 5 percent or less come October.

Others vying for The Wiz's account: Fallon, Bates, Hampel/Stefanides, The Concept Farm and Wolf Group, all New York.