Little Rock ad agency CJRW is the anticipated winner of a $34.5 million, five-year contract to provide advertising, marketing and public relations services for the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery.
The Office of State Procurement posted an "Anticipation to Award" notice Monday on the website of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration naming CJRW as the selected vendor.
CJRW was chosen over two other Little Rock finalists, Mangan Holcomb Partners and a partnership of Natalie Ghidotti of Ghidotti Communications and Brooke Vines of Vines Media LLC. Bids were submitted in October and the three contenders made presentations to a state evaluation committee on Nov. 19.
Mangan Holcomb had held the contract for about 18 months when the competition began.
Gary Heathcott, the longtime Little Rock advertising executive who was involved in CJRW's pitch, acknowledged the Anticipation to Award but told Arkansas Business that he couldn't discuss it because of confidentiality restrictions.
Spokesman Jake Bleed of the ADFA said that vendors have 14 days under state procurement law to file a protest, "if they wish to." He said protests are not uncommon, and if any claims are asserted, they are evaluated by Edward Armstrong, the state procurement director.
Sharon Tallach Vogelpohl, president of Mangan Holcomb, said her firm would follow up on the development.
"The Anticipation to Award was released this morning," she wrote in an email to Arkansas Business. "We will be in contact with the Office of State Procurement to understand what the next steps in the process will be."
Under the new contract, CJRW could receive about $6 million for the 2018 fiscal year, $6.5 million for 2019, $7 million for 2020 and $7.5 million in fiscal 2021 and 2022.
The lottery, which generated $456 million in the 2016 fiscal year, is seeking to raise revenue under a five-year plan developed by a London-based consultancy, Camelot Global Services.
Natalie Ghidotti said that her team "had some excellent, results-focused ideas for the Lottery, and were excited to have the opportunity to implement those, but we understand how this process goes." She also wished luck to the Lottery team and to CJRW. "Of course, we're disappointed with the news."
Bleed confirmed that "the number you're looking at, $34.5 million, is for five years." He said the evaluation team's score sheets and other information that went into the decision would be available to the public relatively quickly.
"We enter into discussions with the high scorer to reach terms for a contract," he said. "At that point the other parties have an opportunity to protest, and that's when we need to put our cards on the table, so to speak."
The lottery contract was a hot topic in Arkansas' advertising world, several professionals said, partly because CJRW also represents Oaklawn Park, a client of the agency since 1974, when it was Cranford Johnson & Hunt. Because Oaklawn competes with the lottery for gaming dollars, Camelot Global listed it as a competitor with the lottery for gaming dollars in Arkansas, raising conflict-of-interest concerns.
In November, Bleed wouldn't comment on CJRW and Oaklawn specifically, but he said that evaluation committee would "score responses from vendors to that requirement, meaning any conflicts disclosed could affect scoring" and the contract's eventual award.
Heathcott said at the time neither the lottery nor Oaklawn saw the work as a conflict, and spokesman David Longinotti of Oaklawn said the racetrack was "fully supportive" of CJRW's potential to work for the lottery.
CJRW represents the Arkansas Parks & Tourism Commission, the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Arkansas State Police, and it does work for the Arkansas Department of Health's "Stamp Out Smoking" effort and the state's Affordable Care Act Small Business account, which rely on federal dollars.