IPG Trio Pursues Sovereign

BOSTON Three New York-based Interpublic Group agencies have reached the final round of the review for Sovereign Bancorp’s advertising account, sources said.

Foote Cone & Belding, Gotham and Lowe advanced this week from a field that included at least three other semifinalists, sources said. The work in play is currently handled in-house. Those shops will make final presentations in February with a decision due before month’s end.

Consultancy Pile and Co. here is overseeing the search, but executives there would not confirm the finalists. “We’re in the final stages,” a Sovereign representative said, declining to elaborate. Agency officials either could not be reached or declined comment.

The Philadelphia-based client spent $5 million on ads in the first 10 months of 2005 after spending $12 million the previous year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Sources said the client would likely hike spending into the $12-15 million range in 2006, much of which would be used to bolster its position in New England against competitors Bank of America and Citizens Bank.

Sources said Sovereign, which ranks as the nation’s 19th largest bank with approximately $60 billion in assets and 650 locations in the Northeast, is looking to portray itself as a more substantial player as it continues to grow. (For example, Sovereign is in the process of acquiring Independence Community Bank of Brooklyn, N.Y.)

The bank is seeking a broad branding platform and a long-term agency partner, as it solidifies its hold in current markets (New England) and moves into new ones (New York), sources said. Recent work has stressed customer service and has no tagline.