Publicis’ T-Mobile Work Helps It Land EchoStar

A sound strategy and strong creative ideas won the day for Publicis Seattle in EchoStar Communications’ creative review, the client said last week. But it was the shop’s ability to compete nationally and regionally in the cutthroat wireless telecom category—as T-Mobile’s lead agency—that gave EchoStar confidence that Publicis could handle its Dish Network, sources said.

Sources said the Publicis Groupe agency bested contenders such as Omnicom Group’s TBWA\Chiat\Day in New York, whose pitch was led by direct and interactive unit Tequila, and New York independent DiNoto.

T-Mobile is Publicis Seattle’s largest client, spending nearly $275 million annually, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Contenders were asked to provide references from current clients, and T-Mobile CEO Robert Dotson put in a good word for Publicis, one source said.

For the wireless carrier, the agency creates traditional ads targeting both consumers and businesses, interactive ads and guerrilla marketing and even publishes a house magazine—all of which points to another reason why EchoStar hired Publicis: The digital-television provider wants much more than just TV spots.

Billings were not disclosed. Nielsen Monitor-Plus recorded $120 million in major media spending for Dish in 2003 and more than $75 million in the first 11 months of 2004, but direct response will be a large part of the mix going forward, said Emilie Kelly, vp of marketing and creative services. “We’re very retail advertising focused,” said Kelly. “We do a lot of direct response.” One source estimated annual income from the account at $6-8 million.

In addition to direct marketing, the business encompasses TV, print, radio and outdoor ads, as well as interactive.

Dish added some 900,000 new subscribers in the first nine months of 2004, bringing its total to 10.4 million, a client representative said. Rival DirecTV claimed 13.5 million subscribers at the end of the same period, the most recent for which statistics are available, according to DirecTV.com.

More broadly, Dish also competes with major cable companies, and all of the above see themselves increasingly as entertainment providers, not just marketers of digital TV and cable. “Satellite TV and companies like EchoStar’s Dish Network, they’re starting where people are—at the television screen,” said Susan Gianinno, U.S. CEO of Publicis. “And they, to me, are in a position to help real people take advantage” of the entertainment revolution.

Indeed, the desire to compete on a broader stage is part of what is driving Comcast’s ongoing search for an agency, which sources said is down to Omnicom agencies DDB in Chicago and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco; Interpublic Group’s Deutsch/LA in Marina del Rey, Calif.; and independent The Richards Group in Dallas.

The key players on the Publicis Seattle pitch team included CEO Randy Browning, executive creative director Bob Moore and director of strategic planning Steve LeNeveu.

The shop’s first work is expected in the second quarter. Browning declined to discuss the winning strategy but did say, “We presented a holistic look at what they can do,” adding, “We don’t always start with a TV spot.”

EchoStar, based in Englewood, Colo., previously used creative shops on a project basis for Dish. Media duties, which were not part of the review, remain split between IPG’s Cash Plus Media Services in Minneapolis (broadcast buying) and Novus Print Media in Minneapolis (print buying).