AirTouch’s $100 Mil. Prize

Seeking Efficiencies, Telco Will Consolidate Buying
NEW YORK–AirTouch Communications has started a review to consolidate its $100 million-plus media buying account at one agency, the client confirmed last week.
The San Francisco-based company is inviting shops on and off its agency roster to participate. The account involves spot broadcast and local print duties, which are currently split among four shops. AirTouch has tapped consultancy Mitchell Madison Group in San Francisco to conduct the search.
Mitchell Madison executive Jeremy Desmon has sent requests for proposals to multiple shops, due back last Friday, said sources. Desmon would not comment. Kathy Reinhart, director of corporate communications at AirTouch, confirmed the review but would not elaborate.
AirTouch is conducting the evaluation to gain efficiencies, sources said. Last year, the company spent about $75 million advertising its cellular services, per Competitive Media Reporting. The questionnaire listed spending at $100 million. The increase in billings, which could go up to $120 million, sources said, is the result of Airtouch’s acquisition of MediaOne in April. That deal made AirTouch the largest wireless provider in the U.S.
AirTouch currently divides its U.S. media planning and buying into four regions where it offers wireless phone and paging services. These regions cover about one-third of the U.S. Bozell’s Detroit and Costa Mesa, Calif., offices handle buying for AirTouch markets in the Eastern and Southern U.S.; BBDO Minneapolis handles buying for the West; and Mering & Associates, San Francisco, for some of the Northwest, according to the rfp. Western International Media in Los Angeles, also handles some buying chores.
TBWA Chiat/Day in Venice, Calif., handles creative and media buying for the client’s $30 million brand account. The agency, which sources said plans to participate in the review, recently won AirTouch Satellite Services’ Globalstar account, worth $20-30 million.
Sources said the client plans to invite “a small number of finalists” to make presentations on July 14. Creative and media planning responsibilities are unaffected, the client said.
The search is the latest in a series of media reviews and consolidations by various telecommunications companies. Bell Atlantic, for one, is in the final stages of a media review for its consolidated $125 million ad account.