10+ Compete for Health Net Biz

NEW YORK — At least 10 shops will present strategic and creative concepts this week to Health Net of the Northeast, an HMO that is seeking an agency for its estimated $10 million account, sources said.

Based on those presentations, the Shelton, Conn., client will cut to 3-4 finalists, which will make additional presentations in the next few weeks, said sources. The winner will create ads that will run in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Steering the review is Christine Sparmer, client vp of marketing, who met with some 10-12 shops last month, sources said.

They included New York agencies Brouillard Communications, DeVito/Verdi, Dirty Water, Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners, Grey Healthcare Group, McCann-Erickson, Merkley Newman Harty & Partners and Toolbox. Brouillard has since withdrawn, sources said.

The shops either declined comment or could not be reached. Sparmer was unavailable for comment. Having so many agencies present concepts before a final round raised the eyebrows of some participants. “It’s a little strange,” said one. Still, with few new-business opportunities, shops seem willing to do more earlier in the process, even if the odds of besting 6-8 rivals to advance are not great. It is unclear if there is an incumbent. The company’s Web site displays print ads that feature portraits of patients.