AT&T Reaches Out And Touches Mediaedge:cia

Mediaedge:cia's win of AT&T's $3.4 billion consolidated media account is one of those few account moves that alter the playing field of the media services industry. It also preserves one of the most enduring media buying relationships Madison Avenue has ever seen. Mediaedge:cia, and its precursor, the media department of now defunct but once legendary ad agency N.W. Ayer & Sons, have serviced the AT&T business in at least some form for 99 years.

How much that legacy played in AT&T's decision to consolidate the business with Mediaedge:cia may not be known, but its impact on the agency is clear. The $3.4 billion win increases the shop's U.S. ad billings by nearly a third to $9.996 billion, and makes it just shy of an 11-figure media shop.

"We're absolutely thrilled to be growing our relationship with AT&T." Lee Doyle, CEO-North America at Mediaedge:cia, said in a statement.

The shift was bad news for some pretty big AT&T incumbent shops - OMD, Digitas and GSD&M's Idea City - all of whom competed in the review alongside Mediaedge:cia.

Prior to the consolidation, Mediaedge:cia handled an estimated $960 million in planning and buying for the AT&T/Cingular wireless business, according to 2006 estimates from RECMA.

Initiative, which had handled about $135 million in billings for Bellsouth, which was acquired and integrated into the AT&T account, wisely withdrew from the pitch before the final rounds.

OMD, which had handled Cingular and AT&T billings estimated at $480 million, according to RECMA, took a sizeable hit, which was offset somewhat Thursday by news that the agency had simultaneously won the consolidated worldwide media account for Italian pasta marketer Barilla. The incumbent on that $275 million to $300 million piece of business, coincidentally was Mediaedge:cia. Carat and Starcom also participated in the pitch.

But Mediaedge:cia isn't hurting too much from that loss today, as its total net billings gain now makes it the third biggest buyer of media in the U.S. behind sister shop MindShare, and OMD.

Meanwhile, Ayers legacy with the AT&T account may have been forgotten on Madison Avenue, but as a 1908 ad created by Ayer for the then fledgling telecommunications giant suggests, "everyday brings a new use - a new requirement" for the telecommunications industry.

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