Fleet To Consolidate Credit Duties

Consultant Examines Direct Marketing Agencies in $100 Mil. Review
BOSTON–Aiming to consolidate its growing credit card business, Fleet Financial Group has retained a consultant to review direct marketing shops vying for an account with spending pegged at more than $100 million.
Fleet wants to consolidate its various credit card-related direct marketing assignments at one or two agencies, said Betsy Richardson, senior vice president of corporate marketing for the client. The review stems from Fleet’s buyout of Advanta Corp.’s $10.5 billion credit card portfolio in February.
Fleet’s $100 million direct marketing outlay for credit cards dwarfs the estimated $40 million the country’s ninth-largest bank now spends through its lead ad agency, Arnold Communications of Boston.
“Branding isn’t much of an issue for credit card issuers. It’s more important that the message be conveyed consistently and that Fleet gets systems into place that will allow that to happen seamlessly” as it grows, said an agency source. The $100 million would likely cover creative development, the purchase of mailing lists and production, the source said.
Among the shops vying for the consolidated account are Barry Blau & Partners in Wilton, Conn., and Devon Direct Marketing & Advertising in Berwyn, Pa. Blau is expected to make its pitch with Arnold, the first joint effort by the two agencies since Arnold was bought by Blau parent Snyder Communications in Bethesda, Md. Devon is Advanta’s direct marketing agency of record. Fleet has worked with various direct shops on a project basis, Richardson said.
Richardson declined to name any contenders because some have conflicts. “Given the consolidation that is happening in our industry, we guaranteed confidentiality to the agencies involved,” she said.
Fleet has retained review consultants Pile and Co. to conduct the search. Pile led a review for First Union’s $30 million direct marketing task, awarded in March to Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston. Hill, Holliday also works for Fleet’s rival, BankBoston.
Other shops initially in the First Union pitch: JWT Direct, FCB Direct, The Colligan Group and Communications Plus, all New York; and Earle Palmer Brown, Philadelphia.
Only the credit card business is in review, Richardson said. A decision is anticipated by late summer. Fleet also expects to address agency tasks on other acquisitions, including New York brokerage Quick & Reilly Group, handled by Publicis in New York.