Toysmart.com last week narrowed its list of contenders to Arnold Communications and Partners & Simons, both here.
A creative-only agency, Partners has teamed with media shop Carat Freeman in Newton, Mass., to pitch the estimated $10-15 million account.
Eliminated after capabilities presentations were Mullen in Wenham, Mass.; Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston; and Mezzina/Brown in New York.
Noting the level of competition among the agencies, Toysmart.com chief marketing officer Kelly McGovern said narrowing the field to two was difficult. All the contenders came in and "played beautiful notes, but Arnold and Partners played beautiful music," she said.
Client officials may opt to unbundle media and creative duties. Arnold, which typically only pitches full-service accounts, is expected to proceed "full speed ahead." One media executive at the agency said he hoped to "remove" the unbundling option by convincing Toysmart.com to keep creative and media chores together at Arnold.
The next step in the review process is a round of speculative creative and media planning presentations, said McGovern. A final decision is expected in April.
Connections exist between client officials and the five agencies that ultimately were asked to present credentials, McGovern said. For example, while serving as a marketing executive at Bay Networks prior to its acquisition by Northern Telecom last year, McGovern conducted a review that came down to Hill, Holliday and Mezzina/Brown, she said.
Toysmart.com was started in January when its chief executive officer, David Lord, bought the educational toy retailing division of the Holt Co.
"Educational toys are the fastest growing segment of the toy industry and electronic commerce is the fastest growing way of distributing those toys to the consumer," said Lord in a statement posted on his company's Web site.