Ogilvy Muscles In on Cisco Account

NEW YORK-WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather has leveraged a prior relationship with a former IBM marketing executive to get a crack at Cisco Systems’ $50-60 million account, now at a division of Grey based in San Francisco, sources said.

Ogilvy’s Los Angeles office is said to be developing a new campaign for Cisco, less than four months after the San Jose, Calif., systems provider hired darkGrey, said sources. Leading the effort is Ogilvy vice chairman Steve Hayden, a creative director long associated with IBM, the largest client of Ogilvy in New York.

The IBM connection is Marilyn Mersereau, former vp, integrated marketing communications at Big Blue, who joined Cisco as vp, corporate advertising in July. A few weeks later, Ogilvy began working on the business, with a nod from Mersereau, according to sources.

DarkGrey, which has yet to produce a campaign for Cisco, presented creative concepts to the client early last week-concepts that sources said were well-received. By week’s end, however, Cisco had put the shop’s work on hold, pending the development of Ogilvy’s campaign, said sources.

It’s unclear if Ogilvy’s encroachment will lead to a split of the business or a wholesale shift. Client executives, including Mersereau and chief marketing officer James Richardson, could not be reached. DarkGrey and Ogilvy executives declined comment.

Cisco’s last campaign, from Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos in San Francisco, positioned the company as a helping hand that enables corporations to better use the Internet for their business. One spot, “Factory,” uses the tagline, “Discover all that’s possible on the Internet.”

DarkGrey, the tech unit of Grey Global Group, won the account after a four-month review in which it bested JWT & Tonic in San Francisco and TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif. The process began with the circulation of an RFP, which Ogilvy’s New York office received but did not return, said sources.

Although the RFP said Cisco planned to spend $50-60 million annually on ads, CMR recorded that just less than $30 million in measured media supported the brand last year. And in the first half of 2002, spending had plummeted to less than $2 million.