Fleet Heads for Hill

One word describes why two big banks changed agencies last week: relationships.
Fleet Boston Corp.–the holding company resulting from Fleet Financial Group’s buyout of BankBoston–confirmed it has moved its corporate ad account, worth at least $40 million, from Arnold Communications to Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos.
Arnold executives saw the beginning of the end last April when Hill, Holliday was awarded a research project aimed at developing the merged entity’s corporate identity. Then in May, when it was announced that Fleet marketing executive Anne Finucane, a former Hill, Holliday employee, would report to president and chief operating officer Chad Gifford, Arnold sources said they knew their days were numbered.
Gifford is active in many of the same causes and charities as Hill, Holliday chairman and CEO Jack Connors.
Arnold, though, is not bankless. When it began to see signs that Hill, Holliday was gaining an upper hand on Fleet, it was given approval by the client to work with PNC Bank in Pittsburgh, where a former Arnold employee now heads up marketing.
PNC last week said it had parted ways with Doner in Southfield, Mich., which it hired just eight months ago to handle its $25 million account.
“It’s disappointing when you consider we came out on top of a tough and professionally run review against some of the best shops in the business,” said Doner chairman Alan Kalter of the loss. “But there were chemistry issues with one individual that made a long-term relationship impossible.”
Kalter, according to sources, was referring to Denise Thorne Johnson, senior vice president of marketing who joined PNC from Arnold, where for two years she had run the Fleet account. Johnson, sources said, was never happy with the decision to select Doner and wanted her own shop, an assertion she denied last week.
Arnold agreed to service PNC from its Washington, D.C., office since staffers in Boston were still at work on the Fleet business. That is not expected to change now.