ING Direct Launches Search

NEW YORK — ING Direct, the online banking unit of financial services company ING Group, has launched a review of its ad account, according to a consultancy that’s managing the process. Billings are estimated at $50 million.

Incumbent agency, Howard, Merrell & Partners in Raleigh, N.C., is not participating, said Rick Hooker, president of the Boston-based seach consultancy Pile and Co. He referred other questions to the Wilmington, Del.-based client, which could not immediately be reached.

Large, creatively driven agencies along the eastern seaboard and the midwest are preferred, but location is not a strict criterion, sources said. Financial service experience also is believed to be a plus.

About 20-25 agencies have received the initial request for proposals, which is due back to the consultant in two weeks, sources said. The account appears to encompass both creative and media duties.

ING Group is no stranger to agency reviews. In September, DDB in New York won creative and media duties for the estimated $20-30 million ING Group account after a review that included TBWA\Chiat\Day in San Francisco and at least one other undisclosed agency. It was not immediately clear if DDB would be invited to pitch ING Direct.