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Healthy Living Account in Play

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LOS ANGELES-The California Department of Health Services is looking for an advertising agency to craft a campaign offering the same sage advice mothers have been giving their children for generations.

The health dep artment has un veiled a hefty 100-plus-page request for proposals aimed at West Coast agencies. The job is to aid the state initiative known as the California Nutrition Network for Healthy, Active Families in promoting regular exercise and the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The contract, worth an estimated $20 million over three years, is slated to be awarded in late April.

Competition for the assignment—which the state is calling the "California 5 a Day Plus Physical Activity Campaign"—appears strong, having caught the eye of agencies that typically eschew government contracts.

"[The RFP] is a little bit daunting, but we're still going to pursue it," said a source at one creative shop in Los Angeles.

The RFP, which was posted online at www.osmb.dgs. ca.gov, requires interested agencies to submit their proposals by March 16. A list of contenders could not be determined by press time.

The health department, which also handles the state's anti-smoking initiatives, has promoted healthy eating and exercise before. Lawrence, Mayo & Ponder in Newport Beach, Calif., won the California Nutrition Network account—then billed as just a $1 million business—in early 1998. LM&P confirmed it has worked on health campaigns, but declined to elaborate. It was also unclear if LM&P would participate in this review.

State health officials hope to launch a comprehensive public relations, advertising and media campaign to "increase consumer demand for healthy food," according to the RFP. Specifically, the DHS wants to emphasize the benefits of eating five or more servings of fruit and vegetables every day and engaging in physical activity for 30-60 minutes a day. The campaign will especially target low-income mothers and children ages 9-11.

The RFP clearly states that the department intends to choose a shop well-versed in social marketing.

"Research has shown that all across the country we have an epidemic of obesity and a lack of physical activity," said department spokesman Ken August. "Encouraging people to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables a day and exercising daily is a very important health message."