Citibank Gets Restless at Y&R

After 3 Years, Financial Giant Reaches Out to Other Agencies
NEW YORK–Citibank, a mega-client of Young & Rubicam Inc., has approached other agencies to discuss business currently handled by various Y&R units around the world, sources said.
The agency network holds the $500 million-plus global account; its duties include advertising, media buying and direct marketing.
Citibank marketing executives, including Anne MacDonald, managing director of global branding and communication, have contacted shops to set up meetings in the coming weeks, sources said.
It is unclear, however, if all or parts of the account are being re-evaluated. Sources said some smaller shops have been contacted, leading to speculation that the client could be interested in exploring the idea of divvying up the centralized account.
“They’re looking for very specific expertise,” said one source who was contacted. Y&R’s contract–a three-year deal–expires in August.
A Citibank representative denied the client was reaching out to other shops. “We haven’t approached anybody, and our roster of agencies hasn’t changed,” she said. Y&R executives declined comment.
During a review of its roster shops in 1997, Citibank surprised the ad world by consolidating the bulk of its business at then nonroster shop Y&R. The move is still one of the largest consolidations in ad history. At one point, the business approached $800 million.
The account arrived at a propitious time, nine months before what turned out to be a successful IPO. Y&R executives pointed to the win as evidence of the power of global reach and integrated resources.
Since then, however, Y&R has been unable to produce any corporate-image advertising, as was expected. Instead, there have been a trickle of tactical spots tied to specific offerings. Some blame Y&R for failing to come up with a big idea. Still, it is not for lack of trying. The agency has presented at least three different campaigns in the past year, sources said. “I don’t know how to move these guys,” said one frustrated creative, citing client bureaucracy. “This is like moving the rock of Gibraltar.” K

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