2 Shops Exit $45 Mil. Weight Watchers Competition

NEW YORK Two agencies have dropped out of the race for the Weight Watchers International account, shortening the list of semifinalists to five, sources said.

Both Interpublic Group’s Foote Cone & Belding in New York and Havas’ Arnold in New York and Boston are no longer pitching the business, sources said.

A heavy workload prompted Arnold’s departure, sources said. It is unclear why FCB will not proceed.

Agency officials either could not be reached or declined comment. A client representative could not immediately be reached. It was not immediately known if either Arnold or FCB will be replaced in the review by other shops.

The Woodbury, N.Y.-based client spent $45 million on ads last year and $25 million through the first half of 2004, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Still in contention are IPG shops Deutsch, Lowe and McCann Erickson; Omnicom Group’s TBWA\Chiat\Day; and WPP Group’s Young & Rubicam. All are pitching from their New York offices. Both creative and media chores are in play.

Lowe is the incumbent on the media portion of the business.

Weight Watchers split with creative incumbent Seiden Group in New York this summer, citing the need for a larger, more integrated agency [Adweek Online, Sept. 8].

A cut to finalists will be made next month. Pile and Co. in Boston is overseeing the search.