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Merkley Wins Axa Equitable

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NEW YORK Axa Equitable has awarded creative duties on its ad account to Omnicom Group's Merkley + Partners after a review, the New York client confirmed today. Billings are estimated at $10-12 million.

The other finalists were Omnicom's Doremus and Publicis Groupe's Publicis, both in New York [Adweek Online, Nov. 18]. New York consultancy Roth Associates managed the four-month review.

"What distinguished Merkley was the quality of both the strategic thought" and its creative executions, said Barbara Goodstein, evp and head of marketing and product development at Axa Equitable, a division of Axa Financial that sells life insurance, annuities and retirement planning.

The first work from Merkley, whose other clients include Mercedes-Benz, TAP Pharmaceutical Products and Arby's, is expected in May. In addition to television and print ads, the New York shop will create interactive ads—a first for Axa Equitable—and direct marketing pieces as elements of the client's promotional efforts, said Goodstein.

Reflecting on the brand and the marketing challenge ahead, Merkley CEO Alex Gellert said: "It's a great brand with a great history. Frankly, not as many know about it as they should."

Merkley also is a finalist in both EarthLink's $50 million-plus creative review and the $60 million Panasonic review, which includes both creative and media duties. Three agencies are competing for each account, with decisions expected next month.

Axa Equitable's last shop, Interpublic Group's The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., resigned the creative business in October to take on the account of Axa rival Genworth Financial. Media duties are at Interpublic Group's Initiative in New York.