Doner Takes Over Ad Duties for Highmark BCBS

By Kiran Aditham 

After confirming in December that Pittsburgh-based nonprofit health organization Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield had launched an agency review, we learned this week that the client moved lead advertising duties to Michigan-based MDC Partners agency, Doner.

The Highmark BCBS biz had previously been handled for over a decade by Mullen’s Pittsburgh office; two weeks ago we reported that the Mullen office would close as a result of the loss.

No word yet as to what other agencies were in the mix for the Highmark account, but here’s a statement from president Deborah Rice-Johnson:


“We undertook this agency review with an incredibly analytical eye. We understand that health care is personal. With the focus always on our customers, it is critical that our advertising convey that message to the community.  We worked with The Bedford Group, a well-respected marketing management firm, to establish a list of key criteria that we would require from our agency; they included strength in the digital arena, solid health care experience, experience in integrated marketing, strong creative and media-buying experience, and a commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce.”

Doner, which officially began its three-year deal with Highmark BCBS on Feb. 1, will be tasked with branding, advertising strategy, and regional media buying for Highmark Inc. in its core and expansion markets as well as for Highmark subsidiary Allegheny Health Network in western Pennsylvania. John Paul, CEO of AHN, adds, “As our organization and the health care landscape continues to evolve moving into 2015, we decided this was the right time to make a change in agencies.”

Along with its newest client, Doner also works with Coca-Cola, JCPenney, UPS Store and Fiat Chrysler.

No word on whether the win will lead to staffing changes; EVP/ECD Justin Smith left Doner at the end of January.