UPromise Selects Hill, Holliday

UPromise, a customer loyalty program designed to help families save for children’s college educations, isn’t yet up and running, but the startup’s promotional team continues to expand.

The Brookline, Mass., company, formed by Digitas founder and entrepreneur Michael Bronner, last week tapped Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos for direct marketing following a review of undisclosed agencies. The budget for Hill, Holliday was not disclosed but will likely be in the low eight-figures, sources said.

The Boston agency joins an impressive roster that includes its Interpublic Group sister shop McCann-Erickson, New York, which picked up UPromise’s ad business in a review in the spring. In that review, which had been administered by consulting firm Pile and Co. here, Hill, Holliday had been a runner-up to McCann-Erickson. The direct launch is scheduled for early in 2001 along with a media-based advertising push from McCann.

“The undisputed king of relationship marketing chose Hill, Holliday for relationship marketing,” said agency co-president June Blocklin of her agency’s selection by UPromise CEO and chairman Bronner.

Agency executive vice president Laurel Rossi will oversee the account at Hill, Holliday. “We will use every conceivable channel” to build relationships with consumers and reinforce ties with partner companies, Rossi said.

Hill, Holliday’s track record in loyalty promotions programs and big brand experience put the shop over the top, said Judy Fearing, chief marketing officer of U-Promise. The shop’s long-standing record of civic involvement was also a key factor in its selection, she said.

Fearing joined UPromise from Walt Disney Co.’s Go.com unit, and she is credited with helping to evolve the brand identity of Disney’s ESPN network. Gordon Bowen, an award-winning creative director who has worked on American Express and other large accounts, is also helping to craft UPromise’s ads as a member of the company’s senior management team.

UPromise will allow consumers who register online, free of charge, to buy goods and services from partner firms. Rebates will be deposited directly into tax-deferred college savings accounts. The for-profit company has announced Coca-Cola as a partner firm; former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley recently signed on as an advisor and board member, charged with convincing more firms to team with the startup [Adweek, Sept. 25].