Lycos Shootout for Ogilvy & Mather and Hill, Holliday

BOSTON — Ogilvy & Mather and Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos will make presentations next week in a shootout called by Internet services company Terra Lycos, sources said.

The Barcelona, Spain-based company uses New York’s Ogilvy for its Terra brand and Hill, Holliday of Boston for its Lycos portal. Interpublic Group agency Hill, Holliday was hired shortly before Terra’s October 2000 purchase of Lycos, and sources have long said that some senior client decision makers have championed a consolidation with WPP Group’s Ogilvy (Adweek New England, Aug 2, 2001).

Up for grabs next week is the estimated $20 million Lycos business, though there is some chance that just a portion of the assignment could be shuffled, sources said. It is unlikely, however, that any major part of Ogilvy’s Terra account, also worth about $20 million, will be affected, sources said.

Client officials from both Barcelona and the U.S. headquarters in Waltham, Mass., will be present and involved in the decision, sources said.

Hill, Holliday referred questions to the client. Steven Gross, who joined as U.S. vice president of marketing for Lycos in Februrary, did not return calls. Lycos vp, brand management Steve Fund declined comment. A company representative said only that, “Hill, Holliday is presently our agency.”

Hill, Holliday picked up Lycos in late 2000 following a controversial review after agency CEO Jack Connors, a Lycos board member, was given samples of speculative creative work submitted by rival Deutsch, New York, which had been deemed the winner by Lycos’ marketing team, sources said. Connors was allowed to share the Deutsch work with his agency’s creative staff, which then re-worked its own submission, sources said. Deutsch protested and said it would not handle the business even if it were awarded the account.

Hill, Holliday was given the unusual second chance owing to Connors’ close ties to then-Lycos CEO Bob Davis, sources said.

Though Davis left following the Terra acquisition to join Highland Capital Partners, he remained vice chairman of Terra Lycos, wielding considerable influence, and has helped keep Hill, Holliday aboard despite the change in ownership and the desire of some executives to consolidate with Ogilvy, sources said.

Hill, Holliday in May launched a TV campaign for Lycos that dumped the two-year-old “Dig into it deeper” themeline, instead urging viewers to “explore their passions.” Ads have frequently featured tennis star Anna Kournikova.