AirTouch Review Proceeds

3 Outside Shops Join 5 Media Buying Incumbents
NEW YORK–Three agencies outside AirTouch Cellular’s roster have emerged as possible challengers in the review for the company’s consolidated $100 million-plus media buying account in the U.S. The five agencies that currently split up buying duties on a geographical basis are also pitching.
Sources said the nonroster shops invited to the review include Leo Burnett in Chicago and New York shops McCann-Erickson Worldwide and DDB Needham’s Optimum Media. AirTouch contacted roughly 20 shops for initial talks, and sent requests for proposals to about eight of them [Adweek, June 8].
Sources said all of the client’s incumbent shops have been invited to pitch the consolidated business. They are: TBWA Chiat/Day, Venice, Calif; Mering & Associates, San Francisco; BBDO Worldwide, Minneapolis; Western International Media, Los Angeles; and the Costa Mesa, Calif., and Southfield, Mich., offices of Bozell Worldwide.
“Our goal is to unbundle our media buying and consolidate it at one agency,” said Kathy Reinhart, director of communications at the San Francisco-based client. “We want to leverage our strengths.”
Reinhart said the review is strictly limited to media buying and does not include creative or media planning duties. She declined to comment on the agencies involved or budgets. Executives at all the agencies either could not be reached or declined to comment.
Consultancy Mitchell Madison Group, also in San Francisco, is conducting the search for AirTouch, which is seeking efficiencies in its buying. The account involves spot broadcast and local print duties, which are currently split among the five incumbents.
The client plans to invite “a small number of finalists” to make presentations July 14, with a decision due shortly after, sources said.
The search is the latest in a series of media reviews and consolidations by various telecommunication companies. Bell Atlantic, for example, is in the final stages of a media review for its consolidated $125 million ad account.