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Think Splits With Oracle But Gains DirectWeb

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Agency Also in Acquisition Talks With True North's Modem Media
LOS ANGELES--Think New Ideas is losing one of its largest clients, Oracle, but replacing it with a potential big-bucks startup called DirectWeb. The changes come amid speculation of a possible change in ownership for Think.
Think, based in Los Angeles and New York, is saying goodbye to software client Oracle and its estimated $30 million account after four years. "They are putting the account into review. We are not defending it," said Think's chief creative officer, Larry Kopald. The split came over creative differences that could not be resolved, sources said. The last set of Oracle's ads were targeted at businesses and used the line, "The e-business engine."
Oracle will likely stage a search for an agency to succeed Think, which will continue to work with the client through spring.
The company is known as a difficult, demanding client, with chairman Larry Ellison himself directly involved in the ad process.
Executives at Oracle in Redwood Shores, Calif., could not be reached. Two possible contenders could be DDB Needham and TBWA/Chiat/Day. The client tapped DDB to handle its $60 million international business last year, and Ellison is friends with Steve Jobs, co-founder of TBWA/C/D client Apple Computer.
Meanwhile, Think will launch DirectWeb on Wednesday under the theme, "This is big." The Mount Laurel, N.J.-based startup is unveiling a subscription online service that offers consumers unlimited Internet access, a portal and a free personal computer loaded with Windows 98 for a monthly fee, starting at $19.95.
Glenn Goldberg, DirectWeb's vice president of marketing, said the client will spend upwards of $40 million as it looks to "gain 1 million subscribers in two years."
Separately, sources said last week that True North's Modem Media.Poppe Tyson was in talks to buy Think outright. The two share IBM as a client. Think declined comment, while MMPT did not return calls. Omnicom Group, which also declined comment, holds a 14 percent stake in Think. The latter's stock was the subject of heavy trading on Friday, closing at $15.375, down $2.6875.
--with Adrienne Mand