California reduces paperwork for pitches

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The state of California is moving to make it less painful for agencies to compete for the $400 million it spends on marketing each year.

California's requests for proposals usually ask agencies to answer an exhaustive questionnaire, often with replies in the hundreds of pages. Agencies were required to proceed through a number of steps, even if they were eliminated, because there was no notification of the winner until the decision date.

But Colleen Stevens, chief-media unit for the Tobacco Control Section of the California Department of Health Services, said she is experimenting with a new process to make state agency searches more comparable to those in the private sector, cutting down on paperwork and including visits to agency offices. The new process, the result of a collaboration with the American Association of Advertising Agencies, will be tested during her office's search for an agency for California's five-year, $25 million anti-smoking effort.


If successful, the new process could be adopted by other state departments.

The state conducted a review on the account last fall, but only two agencies, incumbent Asher & Partners, Los Angeles, and Runyon Saltzman, Sacramento, participated. The department decided to extend Asher's contract for a few months because both shops had "a fair number of state contracts between the two of them," she said.

In addition to cutting down on the paperwork, the health services department is loosening up on the requirement that the winning agency, even through a holding company, have no tobacco clients or clients owned by a tobacco company. "We will look at degrees of separation vs. a more absolute standard," said Ms. Stevens.


Previously, ethnic agencies would partner with a general shop for the account, she said. But now the winner will select partners for Hispanic and Asian advertising after a decision is made.

Other changes prompting the state's move include the decline in the number of independent California shops since the anti-smoking program began in 1989, and the desire of the department to have more creative shops vie for its business. A decision on the account will be made in September.

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