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(July 30, 2001) RIO DE JANEIRO -- For the first time in 33 years, health insurance services company Unimed is using one agency to handle advertising across the country, where it has more than 364 units servicing more than 11 million members.

WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson beat off Almap BBDO in a final shoot-out. Two other agencies shortlisted out of an initial round of eight included NewcommBates and Artplan.

Although no budget was disclosed, Unimed spent $20 million on TV advertising alone last year.

JWT's appointment will not affect existing promotional efforts between Unimed and a wide range of agencies working in different regions. A first nationwide campaign is not expected to break till early next year.

Made up of more than 90,000 doctors, Unimed commands 25% of the country's medical insurance market. -- Claudia Penteado

Copyright July 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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