Sixteen firms set to vie for MD anti-tobacco account

Annapolis, MD: Following in the footsteps of many other US states,

Maryland is now accepting pitches on its long-awaited contract to

"develop and conduct an aggressive sustained mass media and PR campaign"

aimed at educating the public on the perils of tobacco. Sixteen agencies

are involved in the process.



Up to $4.5 million has been allocated for the contract, which

runs between January 1, 2002 and June 30, 2003. The funds come from the

Master Settlement Agreement negotiated between the state

attorneys-general and tobacco companies, and will be overseen by the

state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.



While no breakdown of the budget has been set, Joan Stine, project

manager, believes that 40% will be spent on PR.



The state is looking for proposals that show creative ability for

programs that will reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand

smoke.



Agencies submitted 10 copies of the proposal with sealed financial

information.



These will be distributed to a committee who will evaluate the technical

portion of the proposal. Those agencies that don't meet the initial

requirements will be eliminated.



The rest will be rated by a special evaluation system, then their

financial information opened and rated from "most to least." Agencies

will be invited to do oral presentations based on a combination of

scores.



The state agency plans to select a PR firm by Thanksgiving.



In 1998, Maryland received $54.3 million from the Settlement

Agreement, and still receives between $144.9 million and $189.6 million annually.



The $4.5-million budget for an 18-month campaign may seem small,

but Stine said she expects the budget in future years will be increased.



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