VHA, a cooperative service network that represents more than 1,600 community hospitals and healthcare organizations, is searching for an agency to create its first national brand image campaign, according to sources.
Shops are being told by the Irving, Texas-based client that while it plans to spend about $15 million the first year it advertises, the budget will exceed $30 million in subsequent years, sources said.
VHA worked with Hadeler Sullivan Ewing, Dallas, for nearly a year, but the relationship ended last month because it "never became productive," said Michael Sullivan, HSE's client services director. The agency will not participate in the review, he added.
Six agencies are believed to be involved in the contest. Three finalists will be asked to make presentations in January.
Kansas City, Mo.-based consultancy NPI, headed by former ad agency executive Arthur Katz, is working with VHA on the search. Katz declined comment. VHA representative Mack Haning said, "I can't confirm that we are recruiting agencies, but we are exploring a number of marketing initiatives."
VHA has handled most of its advertising through an in-house agency, which made working with the client difficult, Sullivan said. The agency billed only about $500,000 on its assignments with VHA, he added. It could not be determined how the search for a new shop would impact VHA's in-house ad operation.
VHA is a cooperative through which member organizations can buy products and services.
The company also provides a number of research and advocacy services for not-for-profit healthcare organizations.
The groups the co-op represents account for 22 percent of the nation's community hospitals; VHA estimates it serves 26 percent of all U.S. patients. --with Glen Fest