Fleet Deal Spells Showdown

Largest Shops Await Fallout From BankBoston Buy
BOSTON–A message from chief marketing officer Fran Kelly to all Arnold Communications employees last week sought to answer any questions resulting from Fleet Financial Group’s proposed buyout of BankBoston.
“We’re in line to do everything for Fleet,” Kelly told staffers.
The merger not only creates the nation’s eighth-largest bank, but also sets up a potential showdown between New England’s biggest agencies: Arnold, which handles ads for Fleet, and Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, BankBoston’s shop.
The key question of who would head marketing for the combined entity–Fleet’s Anne Finucane or BankBoston’s Ira Jackson–had not been made public at press time last week. Sources indicated that Fleet would not allow the subject to remain unanswered for long even though a deal could not go through until next year at the earliest.
As an employee of the bank doing the acquiring, Finucane is believed to have the job sewn up. If agency selection is up to her, sources said, she may opt to end the speculation and pledge the account to her current agency or ask both incumbents to pitch.
Fleet spent about $30 million on ads last year while BankBoston spent $25 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
An ad that ran in Wednesday newspapers headlined “One Great Team” and signed by both Fleet chairman and CEO Terry Murray and BankBoston chairman and CEO Chad Gifford was created and placed by the Fleet team and Arnold. Fractional-page ads created by Hill, Holliday for BankBoston products were also prevalent in newspapers last week. Neither bank is expected to curtail ad activities.
In his message, Kelly advised staffers to be confident, ignore rumors and reminded them that “the best defense is a good offense.” Arnold’s relationship with Fleet, once shaky, has in recent months been shored up by a new team, sources said.
Last summer, Kelly recruited Pam Hamlin, a former colleague from Leonard/Monahan and HBM/Creamer, to head up the bank business along with creative directors Pete Favat and Rich Herstek. The team is said to be in progress on “some new, fun stuff.”
Still, Arnold can’t rest easy, not when Hill, Holliday chairman and chief executive officer Jack Connors has deep ties at both banks and was rumored last week to have played a role in brokering the deal. In addition, Finucane was a senior executive at Hill, Holliday for almost a decade.
An Arnold representative referred questions to Fleet senior vice president of marketing Betsy Richardson, who did not return calls. Finucane’s spokesperson, Jim Mahoney, could not be reached.