State Seeks Pricing in New Bids for Tourism Ad Contract

by Kyle Massey  on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017 4:52 pm  

(Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism)

The state reopened the bidding process on its largest advertising contract Wednesday afternoon, seeking pricing information from ad agencies hoping to land a $14 million-a-year pact for marketing Arkansas tourism and the state parks system.

The renewed bidding came five days after the Office of State Procurement canceled its original bid solicitation on Friday, the last business day before written responses from ad agencies had been due.

The new solicitation was issued as a Request for Proposal (RFP), which includes vendor pricing as a criteria for selection. The previous solicitation was a Request for Qualification (RFQ), which allows the state to negotiate costs only after selecting a preferred and qualified vendor.

The new written proposals are due by March 7, and, afterward, finalists will be selected to make oral presentations.

The Department of Parks & Tourism is seeking a single agency after decades of splitting the work between CJRW for “traditional” marketing and Aristotle Inc. for “digital” services.

Tanya Freeman of the procurement office, who announced the cancellation of the earlier bid solicitation in an email to advertising professionals on Friday, was again listed as the OSP buyer in the renewed bidding process.

Speculation after Friday’s announcement centered on the theory that the state wanted to add pricing to the evaluation process, and that was borne out in Wednesday’s bid packet. The RFP document requires an official bid price sheet separate from its responses to technical questions, "and should be clearly marked as 'Pricing,'" the RFP said. “The Official Bid Price Sheet is designed for direct cost comparison purposes.”

The shift from RFQ to RFP followed months of interest as advertising professionals and lawmakers followed the awarding of a $34.5 million, five-year contract for marketing the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. That contract went to CJRW over protests by two rival firms.

One lawmaker who raised questions about that contract, Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, is involved in drafting legislation to make cost considerations a bigger factor in the state procurement process.

The Parks & Tourism contract, worth $14.4 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, seeks a “fully integrated marketing communication vendor” to lure visitors to the state and its parks. While the contract is for one year, state law allows up to six one-year extensions. The contract is funded by the state’s 2 percent tourism tax, which brought in about $15 million in 2015, the last year for which full numbers are available.



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