Washington DOH Begins Review

As its two agencies battle over media payments, the Washington Department of Health has begun searching for a new agency to handle its anti-tobacco advertising. The contract is valued at $5 million a year for the next two years.

The former Asher/Gal & Partners (now G/F/D/M) in Los Angeles won a three-year, $15 million contract last August, handling creative and media, with DeLaunay/Phillips Communications in Seattle as the prime contractor. However, DeLaunay filed suit against G/F/D/M this spring, alleging fraud and breach of contract over media payments it claims G/F/D/M received funds for but did not make. Those troubles led the state agency to look elsewhere, sources said.

G/F/D/M made its name working on California’s anti-tobacco efforts, and created ads for Washington that were tagged “It’s the truth. It’s an outrage.” Despite creating what executive creative director Bruce Dundore described as “a whole bunch of really terrific work,” the agency is now out of the running for the account.

“They’re terrific people and we wish them the best,” said Dundore.

Several Seattle agencies, including FCB, Sedgwick Rd. and Copacino, are keen to pursue the high-profile piece of business.

“It’s obviously an opportunity to do some powerful creative work on a very important social issue,” said Jim Copacino, principal of Copacino.

FCB Seattle president Ian Beavis said the business “had been on our radar for a while. It’s a really interesting account that’s intellectually stimulating; it’s a chance to do fabulous work, but also, it’s doing good.”

Beavis added that working on the anti-smoking effort would offer a chance to do “the opposite of what we normally do. We’d like to take the opportunity to unsell a product.”

DOH contracts officer Susan DeBlasio, who is overseeing the search, said the department is looking for “an experienced company that can step in and run.”

The agency selected to handle the statewide awareness and education campaign will be charged with targeting youth in grades 4-12, as well as adult tobacco users.

Work will also include advertising and promoting Washington’s Tobacco Quit Line.

Letters of intent must be submitted by June 22; proposals are due July 16. The DOH expects to name finalists on July 24 and hold on-site reviews and presentations on Aug. 1. A final decision is expected Aug. 8.