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Wieden Awaits Final Nod From Vodafone

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new york—Wieden + Kennedy is poised to win a global branding assignment from British telecom Vodafone even as the client is still determining the size of its ad budget, sources said.

Wieden's offices in Portland, Ore., and Amsterdam are believed to have been selected by Vodafone, the world's larg est mobile-phone operator, over WCRS and McCann-Erickson, both London, following a review.

A representative for the Newbury, England-based client confirmed the contenders but would not comment further. Sources said another undisclosed agency also participated.

In February, Havas-owned WCRS was said to have been awarded the U.K. portion of the Vodafone account, which had been handled by BMP DDB in London since 1996.

McCann London in November won Vodafone's estimated $75 million, Pan-European brand-image assignment, the status of which remains unclear.

One contender wondered if Wieden's assignment would get off the ground. "It hasn't been agreed where the money's coming from to fund this," the executive said. "There's no central budget." However, another official said the project will move forward once the ad budget is set.

Another executive added that officials at the mobile-phone-service company, which boasts 78 million subscribers, have been unable to determine which of its other European offices would contribute to the advertising budget and how much they would contribute.

That issue, coupled with Vodafone's stretched resources through rapid global expansion, have put the assignment on hold, sources said.

Vodafone owns stakes in telecoms in 25 countries and has different brand names in those markets, including Verizon in the U.S. Estimated global spending for all Vodafone advertising is about $400 million.

Vodafone brand manager David Haines, who is running the review, is based in Dusseldorf, Germany, and could not be reached for comment.

McCann, WCRS and Wieden officials could not be reached for comment at press time.