Fleet Holds The Cards

Fleet Financial Group is conducting a review of direct marketing shops to handle its credit card business, which could be worth $100 million, sources said.
The Boston-based bank is looking to consolidate its credit card-related assignments at one or two direct agencies, according to Betsy Richardson, senior vice president of corporate marketing at Fleet.
The review stems from Fleet’s buyout in February of Advanta Corp.’s $10.5 billion credit card portfolio, which is being rolled into Fleet’s existing credit card business.
Among the shops vying for the consolidated direct account are Barry Blau & Partners in Wilton, Conn., and Devon Direct Marketing & Advertising in Berwyn, Pa., Advanta’s direct marketing agency of record. A final decision should be announced by the end of the summer.
Blau is expected to pitch with Arnold Communications’ direct division. The Boston shop is Fleet’s agency of record for advertising. It would be the first joint pitch made by the agencies since Arnold was bought out by Blau parent Snyder Communications, Bethesda, Md.
Richardson declined to disclose contenders, saying she had pledged secrecy to participants because some have conflicts.”Given the consolidation that is happening in our industry, we guaranteed confidentiality to the agencies involved,” she said.
The $100 million figure would likely include the cost of creative development, the purchase of mailing lists and production, one source said.
Fleet has retained consultant Pile and Co. in Boston to conduct the search. Pile recently concluded a review for First Union in Charlotte, N.C. That $30 million direct marketing assignment was awarded to Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in Boston. Hill, Holliday is not be a contender for the Fleet assignment since it works for the client’s primary rival, BankBoston.
Other agencies initially contacted by Pile for the First Union pitch were Earle Palmer Brown in Philadelphia and JWT Direct, FCB Direct, The Colligan Group and Communications Plus, all in New York.
Once marketing issues are resolved on the credit card business, Richardson said Fleet would address agency assignments on other recent acquisitions, including New York brokerage Quick & Reilly Group, currently handled by Publicis/Bloom, New York.