RPA Wins Calif. Anti-Smoking

LOS ANGELES After a review involving 12 agencies, Santa Monica, Calif.-based RPA has won the California Department of Public Health’s three- to five-year California Tobacco Control Program account.

The budget for the anti-smoking initiative is estimated at $15-16 million per year, and fluctuates based on the sales of cigarettes, which chip in about a penny per pack. Los Angeles-based Ground Zero was the incumbent.
RPA was awarded creative duties, media planning and buying, Web development and digital marketing. The RFP was posted March 18, and the review ended last week when RPA bested the remaining finalist, Trailer Park of Los Angeles.

The call was open to all California agencies that had no conflicts of interest with tobacco clients. The contract will begin in September 2009 and is a three-year deal with a two-year extension option.
“They had applied once before and had been in the finals, and I think they took those learnings and applied them — they listened carefully to what we were looking for,” said Colleen Stevens, chief, media unit at the California Department of Health Service’s Tobacco Control Program, elaborating on the RPA decision. “They clearly demonstrated that they had the depth and the capacity and the staff to address our needs in the areas we were looking for, and their philosophy seemed like a really good fit with what our goals are.”
“When we didn’t get it the last time, we just said, ‘Well, we’re just going to have to wait another five years,'” said Tom Kirk, evp, account management director at RPA. “We’re very, very proud to work with clients to sell products, but it’s rare to have an opportunity to work for an account where you literally save lives.”
Kirk said his agency, like the others, didn’t pitch specific creative, but rather completed a strategic assignment to determine “how can we keep the momentum of continuing the social norm change in California that creates an environment where smoking is not acceptable.”

Over the past 20 years, the state and municipalities have eliminated smoking from the workplace, restaurants, bars and some public spaces, such as beaches. “When you remove the areas where people can smoke, it gets to the point where it’s so hard that some just go ahead and quit,” Kirk said.
California has 4 million smokers, but, as the most populous state (38 million in 2008), the ratio of smokers to non-smokers is low compared with other states. And 70 percent say they want to quit, according to Stevens.