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VHA Seeks a Brand Builder

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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.
The Irving, Texas-based client is telling shops that while it plans to spend about $15 million the first year it advertises, the budget could exceed $30 million in subsequent years, sources said.
Six agencies are believed to be involved in the contest. Three finalists will be asked to make presentations to the client, with a decision expected in January.
Kansas City, Mo.-based consultancy NPI, headed by former ad agency executive Arthur Katz, is working with VHA on the search, sources said. He 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 worked with Hadeler Sullivan Ewing, Dallas, for nearly a year, but the relationship ended last month because it "never became productive," said Michael Sullivan, Hadeler's client services director. The agency will not participate in the review, he said.
VHA has handled most of its advertising through an in-house agency, which made it difficult for Hadeler to work with client, Sullivan said. The agency billed only about $500,000 on its assignments with VHA, he added. It was not evident how the search for a new shop would impact VHA's in-house ad operation.
VHA provides research and advocacy services for not-for-profit healthcare organizations. Its search comes as investor-owned organizations such as Humana and Kaiser Permanente, which have increased their dominance in the healthcare market, have retained agencies for national corporate image campaigns.
--with Glen Fest