Doubting bidders consider dollars 300m tobacco business

WASHINGTON, DC: It's dollars 300 million of work, but no one's sure whether they want it.

WASHINGTON, DC: It's dollars 300 million of work, but no one's sure whether they want it.

Although this anti-tobacco campaign contract - put out to RFP by the Master Settlement Agreement National Foundation - looks like a lucrative one, potential bidders have some doubts.

Nearly 70 people participated in last week's bidders' conference but afterwards, attendees - who asked to remain anonymous - raised questions about the foundation's expectations and aggressive timetable.

Most agencies have little spare time and staff to assign to an account of this magnitude. Niche players such as minority agencies, need to be assembled, and there is less than two weeks to gather a team.

The foundation wants to tie compensation to performance, but as one agency executive noted, initiating behavioral change is a long-term process that could take longer than the allotted four years of the campaign. The foundation also expects one or two agency staff to work in its DC office.

Wolfe added that they have not determined how much profit an agency will be allowed to make and that the acceptable annual measurements will have to be defined and negotiated.

Agencies that work for tobacco companies are not eligible to bid. PR firms which work for tobacco company subsidiaries such as Kraft Foods or Miller Brewing are eligible, but this work could count against them in a tiebreaker situation.

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