First USA Looking at 4

$20-30 Mil. Account at Stake in Speedy Review
NEW YORK–First USA, the country’s third-largest credit card issuer, is in the last stages of an agency review, sources said.
Three finalists await word: McKinney & Silver in Raleigh, N.C., and Margeotes/Fertitta + Partners and Merkley Newman Harty, both in New York. Gotham here was cut, sources said. Deutsch, also New York, was contacted but declined to participate, sources said. All shops declined comment.
Consultant Richard Roth Associates in Chappaqua, N.Y., which is handling the review, did not return calls.
The account is worth $20-30 million and involves creative and media duties, sources said. First USA has increased its spending over recent years, jumping from $1.2 million in 1996 to nearly $20 million last year, per Competitive Media Reporting.
There is no incumbent; most of the client’s ad dollars have gone to direct mail efforts–First USA claims 57 million customers. The client’s direct shop was undisclosed, although Hill, Holliday Direct has worked with it.
The review has progressed rapidly; shops were contacted only three weeks ago and a decision is said to be imminent. The client is looking for TV and print concepts, sources said.
First USA officials declined comment. The Wilmington, Del., company trails Citigroup and MBNA in the category.
First USA is a unit of Columbus, Ohio’s Bank One, which is in the midst of a separate review. Ammirati Puris Lintas, D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Grey Advertising, all New York, and other undisclosed shops are contenders, sources said.

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