The decision by a team of executives from both insurers followed a monthlong shoot-out between Provident incumbent Saatchi and Unum agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.
The merger of Provident and Unum is expected to be finalized by the second quarter. It will create the world's largest disability insurance provider and the fourth-largest group life insurance provider.
The first ad work for the tentatively named UnumProvident is expected to break in the summer.
DECISION A TOUGH CALL
The agency decision was a tough call, a Provident spokesman said. "This was not a situation where you could say, `Aha, they have it,' " he said.
The insurers ultimately picked Saatchi because of its disciplined planning approach, its strong global network and track record of developing campaigns for industry leaders, the spokesman added.
"It was a tough, tough, tough fight," agreed Saatchi North American Chairman-CEO Jennifer Laing.
This win is particularly satisfying for Ms. Laing since the initial review for Provident last spring marked the first time she pitched with newly named Chief Creative Officer Todd Seisser.
"It has particular emotional significance," Ms. Laing said.
The win also gives Saatchi a chance to flex its global muscle. UnumProvident, as the new company is tentatively being called, wants to increase its international presence.
INCOME, NOT DISABILITY
In September, Saatchi launched Provident's U.S. campaign with the tag "Protecting everything you work for."
That effort pitched Provident's offerings as income insurance rather than disability insurance.
"You wouldn't say death insurance, you would say life insurance," Ms. Laing said in describing the thinking behind that positioning.
She added that the agency's charge now is to "fine-tune the strategy and make sure it works globally."
In addition to developing ads, Saatchi will work with the combined companies to