4 Vie for Vodafone’s Global Pitch McCann, Wieden et al for No. 1 Mobile-Phone Service Provider

Four agencies are competing for a global branding assignment from British telecom Vodafone, sources said.

The mobile-phone service, which boasts the world’s largest number of subscribers with 78 million, heard creative presentations this month from McCann-Erickson Worldwide in Europe, Wieden + Kennedy in Amsterdam and London, and Havas-owned WCRS in London, as well as one undisclosed contender.

David Haines, Vodafone’s marketing director at the Newbury, England, headquarters, is running the review.

A decision is expected by early February.

“They’re looking for a worldwide brand-image campaign to convey the high-end emotions of what the company is,” one executive said. “They want more of a human-touch positioning, as opposed to functionality and price.”

The source added that the client wants about six TV commercials that can run around the world.

The Vodafone brand is best known in Britain, but owns stakes in telecom companies in 25 countries and has different brand names in those markets. It is known as D2 in Germany, for instance, Telecel in Portugal and Omnitel in Italy.

Sources said the campaign will likely introduce a unified Vodafone brand name in all those markets. It is unclear whether the campaign will run in the U.S., where Vodafone owns a stake in Verizon.

Billings for the assignment have yet to be determined, sources said.

Vodafone is currently handled by various local agencies in each of its markets. Estimated global spending on advertising for all its services, which include paging and voice-data systems, is about $400 million worldwide.

In November, McCann-Erickson in London won an estimated $75 million pan-European brand-image assignment. The status of that project is unclear.

BMP DDB, London, handles the Vodafone brand in Britain, but has not been invited into the review, sources said. Carat has media duties.

Vodafone last February solidified its dominance of the European mobile-phone service market with a hostile takeover of German engineering company Mannesmann.

Agency executives declined comment. Client officials did not return phone calls for comment. neustadtDANIEL ARSENAULT (2)T. eckelman