GKV Communications Inc. was selected yesterday as the ad agency to run the state's anti-tobacco campaign.
Sixteen advertising agencies originally competed for the $14 million contract. This month, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene winnowed the list to nine.
The department's selection of the Baltimore company is expected to be approved by the Board of Public Works next month.
All forms of media, including print and electronic advertising, will be used in the statewide campaign. The contract covers 18 months and is renewable over a period of 10 years.
GKV, which suffered a blow this year when it lost longtime client Choice Hotels International Inc., submitted its proposal for the state anti-smoking account as the Maryland Action Partnership.
That group includes GKV and subcontractors Log- icon/ROW Sciences, a Rockville health consultant with anti-tobacco experience; the Washington office of Porter Novelli International, a public relations and marketing firm; and the 21st Century Group of Baltimore, a public relations and marketing firm.
"This is a huge boost in morale for the agency," said Roger L. Gray, GKV's president and chief executive officer. "It's a nice statement about how far we've come in the past 12 months. This is a very satisfying win at the end of a benchmark year, our 20th anniversary."
It has been a challenging year for the public relations and advertising firm.
Not long after it lost the Choice account, the agency missed the final cut for the Best Western International contract, which could have significantly softened the blow of losing the Choice contract.
That contract went to Davis Media Group, a Baltimore firm run by a Gray Kirk alumnus.
Some in the industry say that winning a lucrative and high-profile account such as that for the state's anti-tobacco campaign can catapult an advertising firm to greater fame.
Maryland recently reported that smoking dropped 30.5 percent among 10th-graders while falling 13.4 percent nationwide.
That decline is largely the result of a 30-cent-a-pack increase in the cigarette tax that was approved in April 1999, said Eric Gally, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.
"The tax increase, which we've already done, has an immediate impact," Gally said.
"But you lose what you've gained if you don't follow it will a hard-edged campaign."