Group Health Cooperative Dumps DDB, Hires FCB

A month after hiring DDB, Group Health Cooperative has ended its relationship with the shop and awarded its $2 million account to Foote, Cone & Belding, the client confirmed last week.

FCB Seattle was a finalist in this spring’s two-month review, along with crosstown shop Cole & Weber/Red Cell. The incumbent was Grady Britton in Portland, Ore.

When DDB Seattle was hired in April, Sharon Thomson, the client’s director of advertising and marketing communications, said Group Health wanted “a long-term relationship” and felt DDB’s strategic planning and creative meshed well with Group Health’s plans [Adweek, April 22]. But in a statement issued last week, Thomson said the two “could not reach creative terms.”

Thomson said DDB and Group Health agreed on the audience and strategy but had a difference of opinion regarding the tone of the campaign. “You have to be careful with humor,” she said, adding that the nonprofit managed health care group wants to appeal to a younger crowd without alienating existing customers.

DDB managing partner Jan Edmonston said in a statement that DDB “presented a number of creative concepts that were clearly out of Group Health’s comfort zone. We refused to bend, and so did they.” He added: “The marketing challenges they face in terms of repositioning themselves to a younger audience can’t be addressed by doing dull, uninspired advertising.”

A contract between the two firms had not yet been signed.

The 55-year-old Seattle-based client hired FCB because “further review of FCB’s creative revealed their understanding of Group Health’s need for a message that will engage people on an emotional level, relevant to our target audience,” Thomson said.

FCB executive creative director Mary Knight said the shop will use “real-life humor. The work we showed was pretty aggressive, but it was humor that felt right for the Group Health Cooperative brand.”

The shop is developing a TV, print and radio campaign for the fall to coincide with Group Health’s open-enrollment season.