Aetna Goes to Grey

Grey has edged Mc-Kinney & Silver for Aetna’s $40-50 million marketing business.

The New York agency got the nod from the Hartford, Conn.-based insurer’s review committee, but must now make a final pitch to Aetna’s new CEO, Dr. John “Jack” Rowe, sources said.

Alex Kaufman, Aetna’s head of advertising and brand management, declined comment, as did executives at Grey and McKinney.

Ironically, McKinney, which had shared Aetna project work with Waylon Ad in St. Louis, may have been victimized by the management structure created by its recent sale to Havas Advertising.

French conglomerate Havas may have paid as much as $20-25 million to acquire Raleigh, N.C.-based McKinney from marchFirst shortly before the latter filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. McKinney reports to Havas through the Boston-based Arnold network of agencies.

The McKinney-Aetna relationship was viewed with some apprehension by senior managers at Arnold due to a potential conflict with rival insurer The Hartford, a client of Arnold in Boston.

Despite the geographic distance between Arnold and McKinney and the latter’s relative autonomy within Havas, some at Arnold felt that The Hartford would object to an expanded relationship for Aetna and McKinney, sources said.

Arnold chairman and CEO Ed Eskandarian said possible conflicts were “not on our radar” screen during his negotiations to acquire Mc-Kinney for Havas.