RealTime IT News

Visa Narrows Online Account Review

Credit card and transaction services giant Visa is narrowing its online account work to a "short list," following a recent round of eliminations.

Now, Organic, Modem Media and AKQA are vying for the account, which is estimated at $10 million to $15 million. The work will entail online media planning and buying, creative execution, and, to a small extent, Web site design, according to West Hollywood, Calif.-based Select Resources International, which is handling the review.

The names of the firms that have been cut were not disclosed.

The winner of the account will also work in lockstep with BBDO Worldwide, which handles Visa's traditional account. Organic, which is partially owned by BBDO's parent, Omnicom, and which has a separate strategic alliance with the ad agency, is considered to be slightly in the lead in the review, according to one source.

The account went up for review in spring, following what a source described as somewhat chaotic shared duties. Previously, the account had been handled by BBDO's internal i-shop, @tmosphere, and now-defunct marchFirst.

But a spokesperson for Select Resources said that Visa was less dissatisfied with the previous account holders than simply "wanting to see what their options were, basically."

"Their motivation is to stay on the leading edge," said the spokesperson. "They've become a leading Internet payment source. It's a typical scenario, where the client wants to maintain a leading-edge capability, and wants to go out to see what their capabilities are."

The remaining agencies, which will be servicing the account from their San Francisco offices, are now working on an assignment expected to be reviewed at the end of the month.

At any rate, the account will be a major win for any of the players, all of which have much to gain. Formed from Citron Haligman Bedecarri, AKQA made headlines in March with a whopping $71 million investment from Francisco Partners and Accenture -- and it's now seeking to make a name for itself beyond the staggering capitalization.

Modem Media, meanwhile, is seeking to win credibility for itself after a much-touted pledge to remain independent (and after adopting a so-called "poison pill" anti-takeover clause).

Organic, likewise, is facing something of similar crisis of independence -- some industry-watchers speculate that corporate parents will roll the company into other struggling i-shops, such as Razorfish and Agency.com. (The three are jointly owned by Omnicom through a joint venture with a venture capital firm.)