Verizon Leaves Bates

Bates Southwest has lost its Southcentral Verizon Wireless account in a wide-ranging reorganization that has reduced retail territories, shifted regional accounts and shaved a number of agencies off its roster, sources said.

Incumbents were forced to re-submit credentials last month for business that was won just a year ago, when the newly formed Verizon Wireless let the agencies of predecessor companies Bell Atlantic and Vodaphone vie for the largest wireless provider in the nation.

A Verizon Wireless representative confirmed the reorganization of the company from seven into four territories, but declined to comment on the agency relationships.

Industry sources, however, confirmed a number of agency moves. Jerry Kerr, president of Bates Southwest in Houston, said his agency lost its Southcentral account—estimated by Adweek at $17 million—which was combined with Verizon’s Southeast business. Erwin-Penland in Greenville, S.C., which held the $25 million Southeast account, will now handle both.

In the West, California and Northwest markets were combined into a single entity with a $40 million budget, which will be handled by Campbell Mithun of Minneapolis. The agency competed against GMO/Hill, Holliday in San Francisco for the business.

Sources said an expanded 15-state Midwest territory went to incumbent O2 Ideas in Birmingham, Ala. A contest between the New York office of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos and the client’s national brand agency, Bozell in New York, for the Northeast territory remains undecided.

The switch to the new agencies is anticipated to take place July 1.

Shops were surprised by the client’s sudden move. Said one agency head, “I wish we could say we went into this full of confidence, but the truth is we’re scared to freakin’ death about mergers.”