LAWSUIT BLOCKS ACCOUNT WIN FOR CRISPIN

Agency Poised to Get $110 Million Minnesota Anti-Smoking Assignment

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Crispin Porter Bogusky, Miami, nearly banked the 10-year, $80 million to $110 million Minnesota anti-smoking account, but a lawsuit filed against Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota put a stop to the months-long review just as a winner was about to be announced.

Although an agency contract has not been awarded, Blue Cross said it would have chosen MDC Communications Corp.-backed Crispin Porter following a review that included finalists Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Carmichael Lynch, both Minneapolis. Jan Apple, a Minneapolis-based consultant, handled the review.

$412 million endowment
A lawsuit filed last

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month against Blue Cross' anti-tobacco program -- "A Healthier Minnesota" -- extinguished the ad campaign before it began. The plaintiffs, several of the insurer's current and former subscribers, claim that Blue Cross should share with its members the entire $412 million endowment it received as a result of the state's settlement with the tobacco industry in the late 1990s.

Blue Cross had earmarked $252 million of that endowment to health improvement programs, including the $80 million to $110 million anti-smoking campaign.

"We are extremely disappointed that we must halt this process, but we will not be spending any of the proceeds from our landmark tobacco settlement until this recent lawsuit is resolved," Bill Gold, chief medical officer at Blue Cross, said in a statement.

Carmichael Lynch remains agency of record for Blue Cross' corporate branding. But Crispin Porter could still get some assignments.

"We may explore opportunities with Crispin on health improvement work unrelated to either the tobacco proceeds or our corporate brand work," Mr. Gold said.

A spokesman for Crispin Porter referred all calls to the client.

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