Advertising Execs Take Issue With Lottery's RFP

So why is Gary Lay, owner of Little Rock ad agency GWL Advertising, up in arms about the Arkansas Education Lottery's advertising request for proposal process?

"It's one of the most frustrating things I've ever been through," said Lay, whose shop opened in 1993.

Lay thinks the process was designed to exclude agencies.

"When I first got [the RFP], I thought, 'My gosh, this is the worst written document I've ever tried to go through,'" he said Thursday, one day after The Communications Group of Little Rock was awarded the account.

The Communications Group squared off against The Ramey Agency of Jackson, Miss., during the presentations. However, six agencies applied to win the lottery's business. Lay thinks that if four agencies were excluded from the presentations, the RFP must have been flawed.

Other agency executives also said they were not pleased with the RFP's construction. Mangan Holcomb Partners of Little Rock looked closely at the RFP but decided against applying, President and CEO Steve Holcomb said.

"When we put all the pieces together, it was not something we wanted to pursue," Holcomb said. Problems with the RFP were the "tipping point" that kept the agency from pursuing what will likely be a multimillion-dollar contract, Holcomb said.

Lay has filed a protest regarding the RFP. However, lottery officials contend that complaints about the RFP should have been filed before bids were opened.

Of particular contention for Lay was the line stating that an agency must present audited financial statements to qualify. Lay provided tax returns and his personal income statement, but that did not pass muster. The RFP required agencies to have greater than $300,000 in income during each of the last three years.

Lay said his company had 2008 net income of $261,000, but provided $100,000 in bonuses to employees - money that would have gone to the bottom line otherwise.

"I would rather give money to my employees than the government," he said, joking.

Lay said he did not want people to think he had a case of "sour grapes," insisting rather that he would like a fair process, which he thinks did not occur.

We'll see what happens. Bishop Woosley, the lottery's director of procurement, did not return a call requesting comment.