MAKING ROUNDS: QualMed Sees Mix of Shops in Review

An $8-10-million review for QualMed, a Pueblo, Colo.-based health maintenance organization with operations in six Western states, has some of the biggest general advertising agencies in the West pitted against several small shops and, in one case, a medical ad specialist.
Venice, Calif.-based Chiat/Day, with billings in excess of $400 million, and $200-plus million Hal Riney & Partners/S.F., will square off against Winkler McManus, a $24-million S.F. shop; Baxter, Gurian & Mazzei, a medical advertising division of BBDO with billing estimated at $35-40 million; Karsh & Hagan, a $42.5-million agency in Denver and the incumbent Baum, Arensmeier & Talent, also Denver. Also competing are Beber Silverstein & Partners/Miami, with billings of $36 million, and GSD&M, an Austin, Texas-based agency with billings of about $200 million.
Since beginning its review in March, QualMed wanted a mix of creative boutiques and larger agencies to pitch the business, said Jerry Davis, vp of marketing for QualMed. The list was culled from some 27 shops that were recommended to the company.
‘This is an eclectic group of agencies,’ said Davis. ‘But we’re an eclectic company.’
Under Baum Arensmeier, QualMed’s advertising has stressed the HMO’s approach to medical care management. But QualMed has grown rapidly, and now, Davis said, ‘We felt it was necessary to confirm for ourselves that we have the appropriate marketing partners that match up with future plans for the company.’
The company’s theme is ‘Well-managed care, right from the start.’ Davis said, ‘We like that theme because it says who we are. But as the look of the company evolves that may or may not be appropriate for all market segments.’
Each of the final eight made capabilities presentations last week. It’s likely that QualMed will visit some of the shops before it makes a decision at the end of this month.
In seven years, QualMed has grown from a small HMO in Colorado’s San Luis Valley to a $500-million company. Much of its growth came through acquisition. QualMed purchased four HMOs last year and now serves 335,000 subscribers. Fortune Magazine in 1992 ranked QualMed as the sixth fastest growing pubic company.
Many, but not all, of the contenders have health care experience.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)