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Healthy Choice: Blue Cross/Blue Shield Seeking Marketing Remedy By Beth Heitzma

Blue Cross/Blue Shield Association, having parted with Hal Riney & Partners/Chicago, is preparing a national advertising campaign and

Chicago-based BCBS hasn’t worked with Riney since the beginning of the year, according to Sylvia Walker, senior consultant/communications for BCBS. Walker would not confirm a review, saying only that BCBS is ‘re-evaluating our strategy.’ However, sources confirm BCBS intends to significantly raise its marketing presence nationally.
‘Blue Cross has basically been inactive for a few years now, but with the healthcare reform they have hired a number of new communications executives and are readying to get back into the game,’ said one source. ‘They have been talking to Washington-based agencies, but now are considering Chicago shops particularly if a mass-market effort is mounted.’
Such a consumer-oriented program is expected in 1994.
BCBS hired Clay Mickel as executive director of communications at the beginning of the year to reorganize marketing efforts, industry sources said. Mickel splits his time between a Washington, D.C. communications operation and Chicago headquarters. Mickel is said to be weighing a split between marketing initiatives targeted toward influencing the legislative debate on Capitol Hill and a mass-market advertising program designed to influence consumer opinions.
Mickel could not be reached for comment.
The campaign would operate separately from individual state campaigns. There are 62 independent BCBS operations around the country, each of which handle marketing and advertising independent from the national association.
BCBS is one of many insurance organizations working to reform itself for whatever the new healthcare landscape turns out to be.
‘Blue Cross supports the overall philosophies and goals of Clinton’s reform plans, as well as several of the other reform plans out there right now, and has supported health care reform for a long time,’ said Alixe Glen, vp/communications and media relations for BCBS. ‘In fact, most insurance companies really only disagree strongly with a couple of fundamental points.’
In March 1992, Riney’s San Francisco office lost the Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois business to Headlands Communications/S.F., a company formed by two former Riney/S.F. executives. Riney’s Chicago office pitched the account in tandem with the San Francisco office against other Chicago agencies. Riney/Chicago retained that national association business at that time.
Riney/Chicago is said to be in quiet discussions with at least one other undisclosed insurance company about its account.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)