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Changing Aetna Contacts Shops

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Aetna, under new management and undergoing a restructuring, has contacted shops about its estimated $40-50 million account, sources said.

Aetna for the past two years has been working with McKinney & Silver in Raleigh, N.C., and Waylon Ad in St. Louis. It could not be learned if these shops were part of the current agency search.

Waylon executives said they were working on a fourth-quarter campaign for Aetna but declined further comment. McKinney & Silver, which handles Aetna U.S. Healthcare, declined comment.

Waylon's relationship with the client came through U.S. Healthcare, one of the five-year-old shop's first accounts. The company was acquired by Aetna in 1996 to form Aetna U.S. Healthcare. The marketing chief of that company, Robert Apatoff, left Aetna earlier this year and is now a senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Allstate.

In late 1998, Waylon added up the $20 million corporate and retirement-services account of Aetna, formerly at Ammirati Puris Lintas. Corporate advertising in 1999 was an effort to rebrand Aetna, traditionally known for insurance, as a managed-healthcare and investment-services company. Aetna sold its life-insurance operation in 1998.

McKinney & Silver produced a campaign last fall for Aetna U.S. Healthcare that touted the healthcare information available on the company's Web site, which focused on illnesses that can afflict people in everyday walks of life.

Earlier this month, Dr. John W. Rowe became president and CEO of Aetna U.S. Healthcare. Rowe, a gerontologist, was president and CEO of Mount Sinai NYU Health. Sources also said the company is about to name a new marketing chief, Sal Uglietta, who has been with the company in other roles.

Uglietta and other marketing officials at Aetna U.S. Healthcare's Blue Bell, Pa., office could not be reached. Aetna is headquartered in Hartford, Conn.

The company is poised to sell off its financial-services and international businesses, maintaining its healthcare operation under the Aetna name.

While sources said the business Aetna is contacting shops about is valued at $40-50 million, insiders also said the company's restructuring could result in cuts to the ad budget, bringing that outlay into the $25-30 million range. Budgets through the late 1990s were in the $60 million range, according to Competitive Media Reporting.