FCB to Handle CMGI’s First Ads

Internet holding company CMGI is enlisting big-name help in its first advertising effort ever, tapping Foote, Cone & Belding, the largest ad agency in the U.S. and the fifth largest worldwide, to oversee its strategy.

FCB will direct the The Andover, Mass.-based company’s inaugural effort at advertising its brand. Work will include worldwide print and broadcast, to break in first quarter 2001. FCB will also handle other, unspecified marketing and interactive projects in support of CMGI’s various brands and companies.

“After more than five years of building a global Internet network, CMGI is ready to embark on an extended branding initiative that supports our aggressive operating goals for Internet market leadership and expansion, and can strengthen the global presence of the CMGI brand for all our affiliated companies,” said Bill White, executive vice president of marketing and communications for CMGI.

“We’re confident that FCB’s fluency in technology, and importantly, their demonstrated understanding of our unique model and its inherent strengths, will be a strong complement to our internal team in developing a powerful global brand,” White said.

FCB handles several technology accounts, including Compaq, Amazon.com, AT&T and Avaya. It had $8.8 billion in billings in 1999.

The news comes at a crucial time for CMGI. In September, the company announced a major reorganization, combining its 17 operating companies into six to speed profitability. Several of its largest properties followed suit: Ad network Engage said it would axe 175 in September, restructured internally into two lines of business, and replaced its CFO. In recent weeks, CMGI portal AltaVista saw the departure of its chief executive officer, its UK office chief and 25 percent of its staff, as the company retools to refocus on a search engine model.

Tumultuous times, perhaps, for the company, but FCB president Kelly O’Dea is unmoved.

“When the dust settles from the current technology market fallout, the leaders of the next chapter will emerge and CMGI will be one of them,” O’Dea said. “They know where the market is going and they’ve got the strategy, innovative skill and operational base to get there. We’re absolutely delighted to partner with them on this challenge.”

The CMGI account will be based out of FCB’s New York office. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.

Though the deal will launch CMGI’s first ad campaign, the company has made previous efforts to get its name out. CMGI recently bought the naming rights to the New England Patriots’ stadium — now “CMGI Field”. The field is scheduled to open in 2002 in Foxboro, Mass. CMGI will pay $7.6 million per year, for the first 10 years, for the privilege.

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