Shares of advertising giant Young & Rubicam (YNR) declined Wednesday following a published report that said the agency was in talks to acquire direct marketing firm Harte-Hanks (HHS) - Get Reportfor more than $2 billion.

New York-based Y&R, which is said to be in talks with ad holding company

WPP Group

(WPPGY)

regarding a possible combination, is also in merger talks with another advertising company, according to a report in Wednesday's

Wall Street Journal

.

Y&R and Harte-Hanks representatives both declined to comment on the report, which said Y&R was offering to pay more than $28 a share in its bid for the San Antonio, Texas-based company. Harte-Hanks shares jumped 1 3/16, or 5%, to close at 23 5/8.

Y&R fell 2 1/16, or 4%, to close at 49 15/16. WPP rose 3 7/8, or 5%, to close at 79 5/8 .

Management control and the cost of severance packages for senior Y&R officials remain the important sticking points in WPP Group's bid to buy Y&R, according to a report in trade publication

Adweek

this week. Should WPP succeed in acquiring Y&R, which went public in 1998, the company would become the largest advertising company in the world. WPP already owns

J. Walter Thompson

and

Ogilvy & Mather

.