CDC Assigns Saatchi Lead Role

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named Saatchi & Saatchi lead agency for its $125 million Youth Media Campaign.

The New York shop, which fielded a support team that included fellow Publicis Group agencies Zenith Media, Frankel and Publicis Dialog, defeated a Omnicom-led coalition headed by DDB in Seattle.

Semifinalists Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis, and TBWA\Chiat\Day, San Francisco, were eliminated earlier in the nine-month review.

The decision, originally expected to be announced Sept. 15, was delayed as the federal government focused on the crisis triggered by the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center [Adweek, Sept. 24]. CDC associate director of communications Michael Greenwell, however, told Adweek that the campaign—which has been funded by Congress for one year—is scheduled to go forward.

Last week, officials at both agencies were eitherunavailable or declined comment pending notification by CDC administrators overseeing the process.

The Atlanta-based CDC de-signed the initiative to encourage healthy habits among “tweens,” youth between 9 and 13, a group, researchers say, that is increasingly inactive and overweight.

Unlike anti-tobacco or safe sex campaigns, the emphasis will be on encouraging behavior, a focus that forced competing agencies to incorporate extensive public relations, direct marketing and promotional strategies into their pitches.

For example, CDC review guidelines suggested the initiative include touring companies of teen celebrities and peer role models engaging in exercise and other healthy outdoor activities.

Saatchi’s winning effort included input from Frankel, a direct marketer based in Chicago, and public relations specialist Publicis Dialog and media buyer Zenith Media, both in New York.

Among other review partnerships, DDB in Seattle teamed with Porter Novelli’s public relations operation in New York.

As originally conceived, the two-pronged (a minority outreach will be built into the campaign) initiative was expected to continue for a number of years. Even before the Sept. 11 attacks, however, the Bush administration had eliminated the program’s second year funding in its 2002 fiscal budget. A restoration, sources said, now seems unlikely.