Health Net Meets With Agencies

At least 10 shops will present strategic and creative concepts this week to Health Net of the Northeast, an HMO that is seeking an agency for its estimated $10 million account, sources said.

Based on those presentations, the Shelton, Conn., client will cut to three or four finalists, which will make additional presentations in the next few weeks, said sources.

The winner will create campaigns that will run in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Steering the review is Christine Sparmer, vice president of marketing at Health Net, who met with some 10 to 12 agencies last month, sources said.

The list of initial contenders included New York shops Brouillard Communications, DeVito/Verdi, Dirty Water, Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners, Grey Healthcare Group, Mc Cann-Erickson, Merkley Newman Harty & Partners and Toolbox. Brouillard has since withdrawn, sources said.

Proximity to the client’s base of operations in Connecticut is apparently an important factor for inclusion in the review, as is a mix of healthcare experience and consumer marketing pro wess.

The agencies either declined comment or could not be reached. Client officials were not available for comment at press time.

Having so many shops present concepts before a final round raised the eyebrows of some participants.

“It’s a little strange,” said one.

Still, with few new-business opportunities available, shops seem willing to do more earlier in the process, even if the odds of besting six to eight rivals to advance are not great.

It is unclear if there’s an incumbent. The company’s Web site displays print ads that feature portraits of patients.

One ad, tied to orthopedics, shows a thirtysomething man next to the headline, “He wants to ski double-black diamonds.” The tag line: “The power of new thinking.”

Health Net, which also has operations in California, Oregon and Arizona, claims more than 5 million subscribers in the U.S., including more than 1 million in the Northeast. The client, formerly known as Foundation Health Systems, provides managed healthcare through a network of subsidiaries.