Arnold Faces Anti-Smoking Challenge

Allen & Gerritsen and Modernista! are challenging incumbent Arnold for the $8-14 million advertising account of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Tobacco Control Program.

Most of the region’s major players — Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos; Mullen; Holland Mark — passed on the review, despite the relative lack of local new business opportunities, citing for the most part Arnold’s perceived invincibility.

Arnold, Boston, a unit of Havas Advertising, added the account four years ago when it acquired crosstown shop Houston Herstek Favat, and has since established a track record for crafting award-winning campaigns, mainly using some variation of the tag “Make smoking history.” Arnold also works on the American Legacy Foundation’s national “Truth” anti-smoking campaign.

Modernista!, Boston, which had initially said it would not pursue the Massachusetts business, is led by Lance Jensen, a former Arnold creative director who masterminded the agency’s “Drivers wanted” campaigns in the late-1990s for Volkswagen of America. Modernista! was launched as 2000 began and has been among the nation’s hottest creatively driven startups, adding work from General Motors’ Hummer, The Gap and MTV. Allen & Gerritsen, Watertown, Mass., is known mainly as a business-to-business specialist with a modest creative profile. A&G, which has about 90 employees, lacks experience with state accounts but has worked on ads for various medical clients.

A Department of Public Health representative said the three companies were the only qualified shops to submit initial materials. Those materials will now be evaluated and some or all of the agencies invited to give oral presentations around July 10.

The account is mandated to go into review periodically and the current pitch represents no dissatisfaction with Arnold’s performance, the representative said.