A BellSouth Shootout

BellSouth was not able to pull off a merger with Sprint last week, but executives acknowledged a plan to combine one segment of their advertising account.
New York’s Merkley Newman Harty and WestWayne here, which split a variety of BellSouth accounts and share corporate branding duties, will face off for the latter portion of the business, estimated at $21 million.
“There is a corporate consolidation of the account under way,” confirmed Deb Spicer, BellSouth’s director of communications. “We are looking for a very cohesive and focused positioning of our brand . . . putting the resources on these two campaigns into one effort.”
Representatives of BellSouth would not divulge the consolidated account’s total billings, but Competitive Media Reporting cites the budget for corporate promotions at $21 million, compared to the firm’s total 1998 spending of $136 million.
Spicer said both agencies were told two months ago about the Atlanta company’s planned consolidation, and that pitches would take place in mid-November. She said a decision is likely before the end of that month, with a launch of the new branding campaign in early 2000.
MNH’s new Atlanta shop, Bayless/Cronin, will be in the pitch. The deal that brought together partners Tim Bayless and Jerry Cronin under the Omnicom agency’s control was partially a move to strengthen MNH’s Atlanta presence. The two now share the BellSouth workload, the bulk of which was previously handled in New York.
Spicer said no matter who wins the corporate branding duel, “there will still be a significant amount of business for the other agency.”