Animal Attraction: Pet Insurer, Riester-Robb

LOS ANGELES Veterinary Pet Insurance has tapped Riester-Robb to handle its advertising and public relations account following a review, the agency and client confirmed.

The Phoenix-based independent agency overcame Interpublic Group’s Suissa Miller and independent WongDoody, both in Los Angeles.

The incumbent was Colle + McVoy in Minneapolis. The shop had worked with VPI for three years. The advertising portion of the account was inactive for more than a year, after Iams’ investment in VPI caused a conflict with C+M client Nestle Purina, but the shop continued to handle PR. Iams has just under a 9 percent ownership stake in VPI parent company Veterinary Pet Services, and Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. subsidiary Scottsdale Insurance Co. has more than a 60 percent stake.

VPI spent $4 million on ads last year, and $1 million through April of this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. While the agency and client said billings through Riester-Robb have not yet been determined, sources estimated that VPI would spend $5-10 million annually.

“They really presented a well-rounded strategy and demonstrated the clearest understanding of what our needs and challenges were,” said Barbara Kowalski, public relations manager for the client in Brea, Calif., of Riester-Robb. “They had great strength in PR, as well, which a lot of advertising agencies traditionally don’t.”

Riester-Robb will handle account service and public relations out of its Venice, Calif., office with additional support from Phoenix, said Curtis Steinhoff, director of public relations for Riester-Robb.

“This is a really good fit for this agency because it matches our agency philosophy,” said Steinhoff, noting that Riester-Robb’s logo includes the image of a dog the agency rescued when it first opened. He added that the shop’s employees are allowed to bring pets to the office and the agency covers the cost of animal adoptions for its staff. “We’re excited about having a client that has the same love for pets.”

Steinhoff noted the shop’s experience with insurance carriers, including Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield, as well as its animal experience with Maricopa Animal Care and Control and New York City Animal Care and Control.

Founded in 1980, VPI claims to be the nation’s oldest and largest health insurance plan for pets. Since its inception, more than one million VPI policies have been issued, with a renewal rate of 82 percent, according to the company’s Web site.