BellSouth Continues Consolidation

Telco Contacts Shops for $120-150 Mil.-Plus Planning Business
ATLANTA–Continuing its drive toward consolidation, BellSouth is conducting a review of the media- planning portion of its business, now split among roster shops. Billings are estimated at between $120-150 million.
Last week, BellSouth shops received RFPs that spelled out the review process, the client confirmed. The review is being managed by Marci Raible, director of media at the Atlanta telco. “It’s one more step in our strategy of consolidation, cost reductions and enhanced effectiveness,” explained a company representative.
All told, BellSouth uses more than 12 shops for above- and below-the-line duties. Sources indicated, however, that core shops, such as Merkley Newman Harty, New York; WestWayne, Atlanta; and Long Haymes Carr, Winston-Salem, N.C., are best positioned to pitch the
business. Initiative Media North America, which handles buying duties, also touts planning capabilities.
The representative said a winner would be announced “in a couple of months.”
MNH handles corporate-image advertising. WestWayne handles most of BellSouth’s cellular business in such markets as Atlanta, Florida and Alabama, and its Yellow Pages and local Internet-portal duties. Long Haymes Carr handles cellular advertising in the Carolinas, Eastern Tennessee and coastal Georgia.
In 1999, through November, BellSouth had spent nearly $100 million on measured media, according to Competitive Media Reporting. For 1998, the figure exceeded $136 million.
BellSouth’s last review–for corporate-image duties–also was driven by efforts to consolidate. Business previously split between MNH and WestWayne ended up at MNH [Adweek, Nov. 22, 1999].
In 1996, BellSouth consolidated buying at Initiative, then Western International Media, after a review. The other finalists were Creative Media in New York, Long Haymes Carr and WestWayne.
This month, MNH launched a $35 million-plus campaign that repositioned BellSouth as a friendly provider of Internet-driven services and bowed a new tagline: “Connect and create something.”
MNH, whose relationship with BellSouth dates back to 1995, services the account with help from
its Atlanta arm, Bayless/Cronin. Before MNH, BBDO Worldwide, Atlanta, handled the business.