Blue Cross Initiates Agency Search

Selects 6-8 Contenders After Parting Ways With Holland Mark
BOSTON–Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Massachusetts has placed its ad account in play, issuing a request for proposals to some half-dozen shops.
The field of contenders, considered closed, will be whittled to finalists “as soon as possible,” said client representative Noreen Young.
In a twist from past searches, agencies from outside the region have been contacted, said Young, who declined to disclose the budget, reveal the names of the contenders or discuss specific review criteria.
Sources close to the client pegged spending between $4.5-6 million.
According to sources, contenders include: Mullen in Wenham, Mass.; Ingalls Advertising in Boston, which has worked on client projects; New Hampshire Blue Cross agency Barradas Yeaton & Wold in Portsmouth, N.H.; and Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago, which handles national and regional Blue Cross assignments.
The review is being run by Blue Cross vice president of marketing and sales Pat Hughes, who recently took over responsibilities for advertising from executive vice president Peter Meade. Neither Meade nor Hughes returned calls by press time.
Blue Cross and Holland Mark Martin Edmund in Boston split as the year began. The relationship had grown increasingly strained, with the two parties unable to agree on a future direction for ad campaigns, according to sources.
Holland Mark created brand-building broadcast, print and outdoor executions using the tagline, “The family plans.” Although the ads were generally well received, some client officials were pushing for a product-focused, traffic-building approach–a strategy Holland Mark was reluctant to execute, sources said.
Rather than focus on branding, “we’re going to be doing something different in the upcoming year,” said client representative Susan Lahey, who would not elaborate or offer an explanation for the split with Holland Mark, which had handled the account since August 1997.
Agency chairman Bill Davis said no layoffs are currently planned but noted that replacing the billings is a primary concern.