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Group Health Salutes DDB Staff

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Group Health Cooperative made a concerted effort to get to know the people behind the PowerPoint presentations when searching for an agency to handle its estimated $2 million account.

"Ad agencies are very good at selling things and selling themselves," said Sharon Thomson, executive director of marketing communications and advertising at Group Health. However, the company wanted to find out "who the wizards were behind the curtain," Thomson said.

During its two-month review, the Seattle-based nonprofit managed healthcare group conducted individual interviews with the creative directors, strategic planners, agency heads, account managers and media buyers at each of the 10 Pacific Northwest agencies that pitched the business.

The eventual winner was DDB Seattle.

Cole & Weber/Red Cell and Foote, Cone & Belding, both in Seattle, were the other finalists in the pitch. Grady Britton in Portland, Ore., previously handled the account.

Thomson said DDB had a team of great people, and that its strategic planning and creative meshed well with Group Health's plans for the future. "We wanted this to be a long-term relationship," she said.

Jan Edmondson, managing partner and chief marketing officer at DDB Seattle, commended Group Health for its exhaustive approach during the review. He said it was the first time he had ever participated in chemistry meetings of that nature.

"They cared as much about the quality of human relations as they did about the skills that we bring to the table," Edmondson said.

While acknowledging that any win is a good win these days, Edmondson said DDB is particularly excited because of Group Health's business model. "Healthcare seems to be broken in a lot of parts of the country these days," Edmondson said. Because Group Health exists as both a health insurer and a delivery system, it stands out in the category, he said.

The 55-year-old company provides health coverage for one in 10 Washingtonians and healthcare through two hospitals, 30 primary care or family medical centers and five specialty medical units.

TV, print and radio advertising is scheduled to break mid-summer in Washington. DDB also plans to launch an extensive public relations campaign. "[Group Health] doesn't have an advertising problem, it has a communications problem," Edmond son said.