It is understood that Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R have been shortlisted to pitch, alongside the newspaper group's incumbent ad agency Wieden & Kennedy.
The pitch is thought to involve a significant branding project for Guardian News & Media. A spokeswoman said: "This is a particular project around the brand and W&K remains the day to day incumbent."
Pitches for the business are expected to take place before the end of the year.
David Pemsel, the former ITV group marketing director, has been hired as a strategic consultant to oversee the process. Pemsel, a former managing partner at St Luke’s, left ITV in October 2010 after five years overseeing the broadcaster’s marketing team.
W&K has been the incumbent on The Guardian’s advertising business since August 2006, when it beat The Red Brick Road in a pitch. A year later, it won The Observer ad account from Mother.
Although the newspaper group spends just £2 million on advertising, its account has been prized as a creative opportunity since BMP’s famous 1986 "points of view" commercial.
W&K has created a number of high-profile TV campaigns, predominantly to back specific supplements or promotions. Last year, it created the animated "gola mondo" campaign to promote The Guardian and The Observer’s coverage of the Fifa World Cup.
The pitch follows a recent coverprice increase at The Guardian and the launch this week of its iPad edition.