New York: It may go down in the annals of Madison Avenue as the shortest tenure on a big account.
Three days after awarding a team of agencies owned by the WPP Group Plc. its creative and media assignments, Wachovia Corp. suspended the decision. The team was to be led by the flagship New York office of Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide Inc.
The reason for the “never mind” was an announcement on Monday morning that Citigroup Inc. would acquire the banking operations of Wachovia. That will most likely eliminate the need for the WPP agencies because Citigroup has its own agencies, which include the Publicis Worldwide unit of the Publicis Groupe SA and WPP’s Mediaedge:cia.
“In light of today’s announcement,” a spokeswoman for Wachovia, Mary Beth Navarro, said on Monday in an email message, referring to the deal with Citigroup, “Wachovia has paused the finalization of our agreement with Ogilvy.”
A spokeswoman for Ogilvy New York, Toni Lee, said the agency did not have anything to add to the statement from Wachovia, which is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Wachovia’s announcement on Friday ended a review that began in May. The review had been narrowed to the team led by Ogilvy New York and a team led by WPP agency Y&R.
Ogilvy New York was to take on the creative duties for Wachovia that had been handled by the North Carolina office of Mullen, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies Inc. The Maxum unit of WPP was to become the Wachovia agency for media planning and buying, replacing the Boston office of Carat, part of the Aegis Group Plc.
Hours after Wachovia announced its decision on Friday, reports appeared that Wachovia had started merger conversations with Citigroup, Wells Fargo and other banks.
When the review began, it was estimated that Wachovia spent about $150 million (Rs703.5 crore) a year on advertising. In its announcement on Friday, Wachovia said it would spend less on advertising in 2009 than it would this year, citing “market conditions” as well as the efficiencies of consolidating most of its campaigns at agencies all owned by the same company.
In retrospect, some of what Wachovia announced last week might be viewed as whistling past the graveyard.
If it is any consolation for the WPP agencies, they have company on Madison Avenue as the banking industry rapidly consolidates as a result of the financial crisis.
The trade publication Advertising Age, in an article on its website on Monday, estimated that after all the deals now pending, Citigroup would emerge as the bank that spends the most each year on advertising and marketing, at more than $540 million, followed by JPMorgan Chase and Co. at more than $510 million.
©2008/The New York Times