Merrill Lynch Reaches Beyond J. Walter Thompson

Independent shop Boat house has landed an estimated $15-20 million national TV ad assignment for Merrill Lynch’s Global Pri vate Client brand, which targets high-net-worth investors.

The Dedham, Mass., shop has worked with Merrill Lynch on print projects for more than a year. It was awarded the assignment without a review.

West Lockhart, a rep for the Plains boro, N.J.-based division, empha sized that “we continue to have a strong relationship with J. Walter Thompson” and said JWT remains its lead creative resource. JWT declined comment.

Boathouse CEO John Connors worked with Global Private Client marketing vp Paula Polito when both were at Interpublic Group’s Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cos mopulos in Bos ton, where Connors’ father, Jack, is CEO. Polito did not return calls.

Neither Lockhart nor Connors would discuss the assignment. The Boathouse work is expected to break next month. Sources said Merrill Lynch wants image-boosting ideas in the wake of negative press from questionable stock recommendations made by some of its consultants.

JWT’s latest Global Private Client ads broke in February and featured the voice of actor Steve Martin. In all, Merrill Lynch spent $120 million on ads in 2001, according to CMR. WPP Group’s MindShare handles media buying. —Lisa van der Pool and Andrew McMains