Earthlink Assesses Agencies

LOS ANGELES — Internet service provider EarthLink has placed its $40-50 million creative and media account in review, the client confirmed last week.

The account has been handled by TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., for the last 18 months. The shop has been invited to defend. “This is not about dissatisfaction,” said a client representative. “Our business is changing and evolving and this is an opportunity to step back and look at our objectives.”

He added: “Last year, our goal was to raise brand awareness and [TBWA\C\D] did a great job. Now, we want to focus on products, services, and who we are as a company and a brand.”

The incumbent had no comment on the review. Since EarthLink’s merger with MindSpring in February, there have been a number of changes in the marketing ranks. For instance, the agency search is being led by evp of marketing Karen Gough, who joined in May after serving as vp of marketing solutions at Coca-Cola North America.

And, over the last six months, the company restructured the marketing department to create the Strategic Brand Marketing Group. That group is led by evp of strategic brand marketing Mike Lunsford. He will work with Gough to select an agency.

As new executives move into key marketing jobs, TBWA\C\D’s champions at the client have left or have been shifted into new roles. Most notably, EarthLink’s vp of brand marketing Claudia Caplan, who was instrumental in the hiring of TBWA\C\D, left the company in December.

TBWA\C\D’s most recent campaign uses the theme “faster better connections” and touts the company’s quick connections to the Internet. The effort also tackles the vexing issue of privacy on the Net with a TV spot that pokes fun at rival ISPs by having a man offer to sell the phone number he secured from a woman seated at a bar. The spot assures that EarthLink does not share information about its users. Previous ads carried the tagline, “Get linked.”