WASHINGTON, D.C., March 2—It seems as though the lack of a branded presence in Washington, D.C., is beginning to hurt Grey Advertising’s GCI Group. The American Cancer Society this week took its seven-figure account out of GCI and awarded it to Porter Novelli, in part because the incumbent couldn’t deliver the Washington presence the Society was looking for.

GCI’s sister company, APCO Associates, is among the leaders in the Washington, and internal politics are believed to have played a role in GCI’s failure to expand into the market. GCI does have a public affairs capability, led out of San Francisco by Larry Kamer, and would clearly like its own office in the nation’s capital.

Meanwhile, the American Cancer Society’s national vice president of corporate communications Greg Donaldson said the group had chosen Porter Novelli over fellow finalists Ketchum and Manning Selvage & Lee because “we needed an agency with impeccable credentials in brand building for non-profit organizations, as well as a core competency is health-related social marketing.”

Porter Novelli has worked with several cancer groups, including the National Childhood Cancer Foundation and the National Cancer Institute, as well as on anti-tobacco programs for the American Legacy Foundation and the Florida Department of Health. It’s social marketing practice is regarded as one of the nation’s leaders.

According to Jerry Swerling, the California consultant who handled the search, “Social marketing is really about behavior modification, and there are just not that many PR firms out there who are strong when it comes to changing behavior.”
GCI’s BellSouth business is also in review. The telecommunications company is reviewing its relationships with GCI and Cohn & Wolfe, both of which have significant amounts of BellSouth business run out of their Atlanta offices.