BlueCross BlueShield Association Seeks Agency of Record

Increases Focus on Direct-to-Consumer Advertising

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BlueCross BlueShield Association is searching for a national agency of record to help it market with an increased focus on consumers.

The BCBSA, the national trade association of the 38 individual BCBS companies in the U.S., has been circulating an RFP to agencies to find one that will help it directly reach consumers. "The evolution of the health-insurance industry is causing a shift from employer choice to consumer choice in the purchase of health-insurance products" starting in 2013 and 2014, according to the RFP. The BCBSA did not comment, and said it does not discuss the vendor-selection processes.

Marketing duties involved in the review are TV, print, radio, digital and out-of -home. Media was not believed to be involved. The RFP said that the chosen agency will also "eventually work" with BCBSA's 38 member companies. The winning agency is expected to begin work in August.

That shift from employer choice to consumer choice, at least in part, appears to be a reference to the Affordable Care Act. Signed into law in 2010, a key provision of the act is an individual mandate that requires individuals to get health coverage or face a fine.

Historically, health-insurance companies focused on B-to-B marketing, particularly to employers who provide employee coverage. But companies have been paying more attention to consumers in recent years, and consumer marketing seems to have picked up even more steam with the passing of the health-care law. Aside from the individual mandate, providers have recognized an opportunity in marketing to consumers because many companies offer employees various plans, sometimes from competing companies.

Some of the law's provisions will start going into effect in 2013, and the individual mandate goes into effect in 2014. But the Supreme Court is currently mulling over whether the individual mandate is constitutional.

The BCBS Association currently does not have an agency of record, but has been working with various agencies on a project basis. The association's 38 individual companies work on a more regional and local level with their own agencies. The association in 2011 spent around $50 million on measured media, according to Kantar, though that number may include dollars spent by the local and regional BCBS companies.

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