Blue Shield Halts Account Review

Blue Shield of California has put an indefinite hold on its search for a new agency to handle its brand advertising account, the client confirmed.

The San Francisco-based health-insurance provider initiated its search in December and was scheduled to make a decision early this month. But sources said the company was re-evaluating how it wants to handle its brand advertising efforts in the future.

Three finalists, all in San Francisco, were still pitching when the news came down: Foote, Cone & Belding; Hill, Holliday; and Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmet terer/Euro RSCG. All three shops had completed their final presentations prior to learning the search had been halted.

McCann-Erickson, San Francisco, had handled the estimated $3-5 million business, but the agency did not defend. FCB here currently handles the client’s direct-marketing account, which was not affected by the review.

Lisa Hunt, director of brand communications at Blue Shield, said the three finalists gave “great insights into different ways to handle the business.” She noted, however, that Blue Shield will be introducing a new service later this year and is taking a step back to analyze how it wants to launch and position the new product.

“We are always looking for better ways to be positive catalysts in healthcare,” she said.

Founded in 1939, Blue Shield of California provides PPO and HMO healthcare plans to 2.3 million members in California.