Gateway Meets Quietly With Shops

Gateway has held discussions with at least two East Coast agencies about the future of its brand and the direction of its U.S. advertising, sources said last week.

The discussions have been fairly detailed and could lead the client to move a significant portion of its account from McCann-Erickson Worldwide, here, sources said.

The talks are so advanced, a decision by the client could come before yearend, sources said. Gateway spent $230 million in media in the U.S. in 1999, per Competitive Media Reporting.

Jeffrey Weitzen, president and CEO for the San Diego-based client, joined the company in January 1998 from AT&T, where he worked closely with the McCann AT&T team in New York.

One of his first executive decisions at Gateway in March 1998 was to fire D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and move the account to McCann without a review [Adweek, March 23, 1998].

“That’s his style,” said one executive. “He doesn’t like big competitive pitches.” A McCann rep said, “We have no knowledge of a review.” She referred all calls to the client.

Brad Williams, a client representative, said, “This account is not under review.”

But sources said Gateway executives have been very low-key in their meetings with agencies.

One agency source described the process as “very weird, very secretive.”

One shop met several times with Gateway executives to discuss the business currently at McCann. There was “mutual interest,” said a source at the shop. But the source added, “The more we found out, the less attractive it seemed.” So “fairly recently” the agency walked away.

Other sources said Gateway has been increasingly dissatisfied with McCann’s level of service since the shop won the Microsoft account in 1999.

In October, the client bypassed McCann for two TV spots created by documentary film director Henry Corra.

—with Andrew McMains

and Tania D. Panczyk