Shops Pitch Morgan Stanley Smith Barney

A handful of agencies are competing to handle global creative duties on a new joint venture between Morgan Stanley and Citi, sources said.

Under the venture, which took effect in June, Morgan Stanley combined its Global Wealth Management Group with several Citi units, including Smith Barney in the U.S., Quilter in the U.K. and Smith Barney in Australia. Morgan Stanley owns 51 percent of the venture — known as Morgan Stanley Smith Barney — and Citi, 49 percent.

The Morgan Stanley Smith Barney review is said to be at a late stage, with agency-client meetings taking place this week. The participants could not immediately be ascertained.

A client representative acknowledged the review but declined further comment. The assignment appears to be new.

A global media spend was not immediately available. In the U.S. alone, Morgan Stanley spent $22 million in major measured media last year and nearly $20 million in the first nine months of 2009, according to Nielsen. (The 2008 total represented a 67 percent decline from 2007’s total of $67 million.) Those figures don’t include online spending.

Smith Barney’s U.S media spending has fallen significantly in recent years, from $23 million in 2007 to $500,000 last year and just $200,000 in the first nine months of 2009, per Nielsen.

Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson in New York landed U.S. creative duties on Smith Barney in 2007, but the relationship ended last year after the client pulled back on spending, according to an agency representative.

Similarly, Ogilvy & Mather split with Morgan Stanley last year after the WPP Group shop’s lead global creative agency role downshifted to project-based work, an Ogilvy rep said. In addition, last year the client added a second shop to handle print, digital and outdoor advertising for what became the “World Wise” campaign: independent StrawberryFrog in New York. The agency, which remains on the Morgan Stanley roster, declined to comment.

The latest agency search started several months ago and reached the finalist stage before stalling during a changing of the guard at Morgan Stanley in September, according to a source. That month, the company named James Gorman to succeed John Mack as worldwide CEO, with Mack retaining his secondary title of chairman.

Gorman previously was co-president of the company along with Walid Chammah. At year’s end, Chammah will become chairman international. Gorman’s promotion takes effect Jan. 1.