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Omnicom Forms New Network

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Rob Flaherty, a senior partner at Ketchum Communications, has been tapped as "team leader" of One Blue, the newly formed network within Omnicom that will handle IBM's customer-targeted public relations efforts.

The New York-based network comprises a consortium of executives from Omnicom-owned PR shops, including Ketchum, Brodeur and Fleishman-Hillard.

"IBM has a need for strategic integration and alignment," Flaherty said of One Blue's formation. "[This review] challenged the PR industry to innovate."

The New York and San Francisco offices of Havas-owned Magnet Communications will handle IBM's technology and research PR efforts, and the New York, San Francisco and London offices of Text 100 will handle IBM products.

Last week, the Armonk, N.Y.-based computer giant consolidated its estimated $40 million global PR account from about 50 agencies to 7 undisclosed finalists before selecting 3 roster shops after a 5-month review.

The customer account was awarded based partly on the One Blue concept, said Jon Iwata, IBM's vp of corporate communications. Customer PR includes global services, financing, and sales and distribution.

The customer brief asked shops to extend the IBM brand into business innovation. The technology brief asked them to devise programs establishing IBM as an IT industry leader able to attract top talent. The product brief asked them to create programs to establish IBM as a systems infrastructure leader.

Iwata said the consolidation was not so much a cost-cutting measure as a means to streamline IBM's communications efforts through three core businesses.

IBM's last significant consolidation was in 1994, when it tapped Ogilvy & Mather for its estimated $500 million global ad account.