Agencies Gear Up for Telco Pitch

SAN FRANCISCO–AT&T Wireless contacted several shops last week about its $300-400 million account as FCB’s New York office took over as defender of the business from incumbent FCB in San Francisco, sources said.

The New York headquarters has “a greater depth of resources, especially in account planning,” said one source.

Questionnaires were sent last week to Ogilvy & Mather, TBWA\Chiat\Day, Grey and Saatchi & Saatchi, all based in New York, and Leo Burnett in Chicago, sources said. They are due back at the end of March.

GSD&M in Austin, Texas, and Fallon in Minneapolis are also said to be chasing the business, but had not been contacted by late last week, sources said.

It was not known if AT&T roster shop Young & Rubicam had been contacted or is pursuing the account.

Client representative James Peterson would neither confirm nor deny any contenders, but said AT&T Wireless has not finalized the players. “We’re working on a working list,” he added. FCB could not be reached for comment.

The AT&T business is a hot commodity, given the boom in wireless communications and the generally slow business climate following the dot-com crash.

One year ago, Mohan Gyani joined the company as president and CEO from AirTouch, where he was evp, CFO. Other key decision makers include Kim Whitehead, svp of marketing in the Redmond, Wash., office, Phil Jacobus, vp of advertising in the West Palm Beach, Fla., office, and Deborah Stymest, advertising manager in the Paramus, N.J., office.

Several weeks ago, FCB received a positive rating from the client during its annual evaluation, due mainly to FCB New York’s work on the business, sources said. AT&T Wireless executives had said the review was spurred by AT&T’s split into four units: wireless, broadband, business and consumer.

“Emotionally, the spin-off means they’re becoming their own company, so there’s a natural tendency to reassess needs,” a source said.

Mike Keeshan, who heads the consultancy MagiKbox in Cos Cob, Conn., is managing the review. The search is expected to last about three months.

with staff reports