WebMD Searches for New Agency

WebMD, a medical-information site that is transforming itself into a platform for reducing the cost of administering medicine, has approached ad agencies about taking on creative duties on its estimated $40-60 million account, sources said. Media duties, which are handled in-house, do not appear to be in play.

Hinchman Media Consultancy in New York, on behalf of the client—which is shifting its headquarters from Atlanta to New York—seeks to arrange agency visits within the next two weeks, said sources. About six shops were ap-proached and, after the visits, WebMD will pick two finalists to pitch the business, sources said.

The consultancy could not be reached. A key marketing executive at the client, Marla Isackson, did not return calls.

Ogilvy & Mather in New York won the account last year without a review [Adweek, Aug. 9, 1999]. At the time, then chief marketing officer Reggie Bradford cited the agency’s global capabilities. About two months ago, however, the client and agency split, in part due to changes in client management, sources said.

An Ogilvy representative confirmed the split, but declined to comment further.

Before Ogilvy, Gotham in New York handled the business.

Recent TV spots target consumers and use the tagline, “The healthcare destination for you and your doctor.” One spot focuses on a ticking stopwatch, with screen copy that reads, “Most doctor visits only last fifteen minutes. Make the most of your time. Get the ten questions you and your doctor should answer together, from WebMD.” The ad concludes, “There’s no time to waste.”

WebMD also had a spot during the last Super Bowl that starred boxer Muhammad Ali, and used X-rays and blood-pressure gauges as metaphors for its Web service.

Spending on the brand has grown this year, with a total of $30 million in measured media recorded be-tween January and July, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Last year’s total was about $20 million, per CMR.