Sprint Begins B-to-B Competition

NEW YORK Sprint is ending its relationship with Interpublic Group’s McCann-Erickson, which had handled the company’s local and long-distance business-to-business account, the client said.

The Overland Park, Kan., client has hired Steve Boehler of Mercer Island Group in Mercer Island, Wash., to conduct a review for the business.

“We’ve been pleased with McCann-Erickson and the work they have done for Sprint,” said Anita Newton, assistant vice president for marketing communications at Sprint Business Solutions. “As the company changes strategic direction, we need to identify the right agency partner to meet our business requirements.”

McCann in New York handled the main b-to-b advertising while its sibling, MRM, crafted direct marketing executions. Newton said the direct portion of the business is moving to Publicis Groupe’s Publicis Dialog in San Francisco.

Publicis & Hal Riney in San Francisco handles Sprint PCS, which is unaffected, Newton said.

McCann won the Sprint b-to-b account in September 1998, and at the time estimated U.S. media spending was more than $100 million. However, Sprint spent only $15 million on b-to-b ads in 2001 and $5 million in in 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Spending for 2003 was not available.

Newton would not comment on how much the company plans to spend in media after it selects an agency, but she said it would “be significantly higher” than in recent years.

McCann-Erickson this week became the interim agency on the estimated $350 million Verizon Wireless account as that client searches for a new ad agency. McCann is participating in the review. Its IPG sibling, Lowe in New York, was the incumbent and will not defend.