The competition for Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Massachusetts' estimated $4.5-6 million account has come down to a pair of Boston shops with contrasting styles.
Ingalls and Partners & Simons will make final presentations early this week. The latter is pitching with Pro Media, Natick, Mass.
Eliminated from contention last week were Barradas Yeaton & Wold in Portsmouth, N.H.; Mintz & Hoke in Avon, Conn.; and the team of Davis & Goransson and Western Initiative Media Worldwide, both in Boston.
"These guys have been awesome," said client official Noreen Young. "I can't tell you how very difficult" it has been to make cuts.
Ingalls and Partners & Simons are vying to replace Holland Mark Martin Edmund in Boston, which parted with Blue Cross as the year began. The split was due in part to differences in strategic philosophy as well as management changes at the client.
Holland Mark had fashioned a branding campaign for the health insurer, but sources said some Blue Cross executives, including senior vice president Pat Hughes, wanted a more product-focused approach. Hughes recently took over advertising responsibilities from executive vice president Peter Meade. Hughes declined to discuss specifics but said he is looking for "a partner that can grow with us. Strategic thought is important."
With $140 million in billings, Ingalls is expected to stress its integrated offerings, commitment to account service and past work for the client, sources said. Two years ago, the agency fashioned a series of print ads to reassure consumers that Blue Cross would not file for bankruptcy protection following controversial public comments by chairman William Van Faasen, who has final say in the current review process.
Partners & Simons, about one quarter the size of its competitor, operates as a creative consultancy, farming out some services to freelancers or specialty companies. It works for a number of high-tech clients as well as discount brokerage Charles Schwab. The shop's work for Schwab.com is running nationwide.
Some industry observers view Ingalls as the clear favorite and "safe choice," especially since the shop has a history with the client. However, Partners & Simons elevated profile with Schwab, combined with the "affable and aggressive" presentation style of president Tom Simons, may fuel an upset, said one source close to both agencies.