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Blue Shield in Play

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Blue Shield of California is shopping for an agency to handle its $4-6 million account, including advertising and media, confirmed Lisa Hunt, director of brand communications at the San Francisco-based healthcare insurer.

Twelve agencies, most ly in the Bay Area, were sent an RFP last Friday, Hunt said. A decision is expected by March 1.

"A lot of our business needs have changed over the past years," Hunt said. "We want to give a fresh look to our brand advertising."

Hunt said the RFP was sent to McCann-Erickson in San Francisco, the agency that has handled the account for six years. The other recipients were not disclosed, though sources speculate it will be a sought-after piece of business.

In May, McCann brought the Blue Shield image back to TV after a three-year hiatus. The $8 million statewide campaign included three 30-second spots, as well as radio and print components.

The advertising, which features a group of school children, a surfer and a young girl at a bowling alley, is aimed at squelching any im pressions of the health-insurance organization as a faceless, bureaucratic entity.

Blue Shield of California, which employs approximately 3,700 people, provides PPO and HMO healthcare plans to 2.3 million members throughout the state. The not-for-profit company, founded in 1939, includes several statewide networks of physicians, hospitals and allied healthcare professionals.

Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, will continue to handle direct-marketing responsibilities for the client.