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9 Compete to Be Maryland's Anti-Tobacco Advocate

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Final oral presentations for Maryland's anti-tobacco account will be held this week.

Last week the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in Baltimore, which is overseeing the review, chose nine finalists from the 16 proposals submitted.

The contract calls for a budget of nearly $5 million for the first four months of 2002. With four one-year renewal options, annual billings will eventually increase to $14 million.

The department's chief procurement officer, Russell Jenkins, declined to identify the finalists, but sources listed Baltimore agencies Eisner Communications; gkv communications; Carton Donofrio; The Campbell Group; and Trahan, Burden & Charles. The Dan Rosenthal Group in Bethesda, Md., Arnold in McLean, Va., and two undisclosed contenders will also pitch.

Each shop will have 75 minutes to present spec creative geared to the client's two-pronged object-ive: encouraging youths not to begin smoking and reducing second-hand smoke in households where children are living.

Because of the subjectivity of the pitch process, no specific assignments were issued, Jenkins said.

"We want to let them demonstrate whatever they feel best displays their ability to carry out the services as outlined in the [request for proposal]," he said.

One source involved in the review called the open approach interesting, but problematic: "If we want totarget underage girls and someone else proposes creative for spit tobacco, we're not playing on the same field ... It forces the committee to compare apples and oranges."

Financial negotiations are also expected to take place during the agencies' final presentations.

"We'll be ready with our recommendation a week before Christmas," said Jenkins, adding that the selected agency would be notified then. Board approval would not be final until Jan. 23.