Florida's agency review for its $70 million two-year anti-smoking advertising push has attracted 33 agencies and a motion that the process the state adopted to look for an agency is racially discriminatory.
With Florida ready to release a list of five or six finalists for the account, Black Windows Marketing & Advertising, Sarasota, Fla., last week filed a motion in Palm Beach County Circuit Civil Court charging the state's bidding process prevents smaller minority agencies from applying. The motion was attached to a lawsuit originally filed in 1995 by the state against tobacco companies; as part of the settlement of that lawsuit money was set aside for the anti-smoking campaign.
Black Windows is among the 33 contenders.
At issue is the state requirement that contending agencies have a minimum $40 million in annual billings. Few minority agencies have sufficient billings to qualify, contends Black Windows, which requested a West Palm Beach judge intervene.
Black Windows also contends that since much of the latest growth in cigarette smoking has come among young minorities, any anti-tobacco campaign from a non-ethnic shop likely will miss the minority community.
A spokesman for Gov. Lawton Chiles said minority shops are welcome to align with larger, qualifying agencies, or they can enter separately as an agency specializing in ethnic marketing.