Ad Agencies Ponder Lottery Numbers

Ad Agencies Ponder Lottery Numbers

You may have heard that CJRW outscored Ghidotti-Vines and Mangan Holcomb Partners to become the anticipated winner of a nearly $35 million advertising, marketing and PR contract with the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery.

You probably didn’t know that the scoring tabulations left some puzzled Little Rock advertising professionals trying to get the Office of State Procurement’s math to add up.

Reaction was swift after the procurement office posted an “Anticipation to Award” notice Tuesday morning naming CJRW as the likely vendor for the work, which had been done for more than 18 months by Mangan Holcomb.

Mangan President Sharon Tallach Vogelpohl said her team would be “in contact with the Office of State Procurement to understand what the next steps in the process will be.” State procurement law allows 14 days for filing protests.

And Natalie Ghidotti of Ghidotti Communications, who partnered with Brooke Vines of Vines Media LLC to compete for the contract, noted several arithmetic errors in tabulations of the scoring sheets submitted by the three judges of the advertising bid. Ghidotti had requested and received the scoring information from the Arkansas Department of Finance & Administration, which oversees the procurement office.

Though none of the tabulation discrepancies would have altered how the agencies finished — CJRW was first, Ghidotti-Vines second and Mangan Holcomb third — Ghidotti was puzzled by the lack of precision in a highly technical process. By her count, the tabulations had more than a dozen errors, and a review by Arkansas Business confirmed a number of apparent errors.

Ghidotti said she planned to address the tabulation errors with ADFA spokesman Jake Bleed on Thursday.

To emphasize that her determination for the state to issue corrected numbers on the scoring wasn’t self-interested, she pointed out that by her corrected figures, her bid would actually lose points, going to 659 as opposed to the 678 tallied on the score sheets.

Talk in the Little Rock advertising world before Tuesday’s announcement had focused on the fact that CJRW has Oaklawn Park as a client. And the lottery’s five-year growth plan had specifically identified Oaklawn as competitor for gaming dollars sought by the lottery, which generated $456 million in fiscal 2016 and awards millions yearly in college scholarships to Arkansas students.

Revenue for the first four months of fiscal 2017 was $140.5 million. In seeking bids for the new marketing contract, the lottery emphasized a goal of raising sales by “recruiting new players, increasing frequency of less-committed players and protecting the play of regular players.”

Three on Judging Panel

The panel judging the agencies’ written proposals and oral presentations was made up of Joe David Rice of the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism, Donna Bragg of the lottery and Esperanza Massana of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

“The Office of the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery was responsible for selecting the members of the technical evaluation committee,” Bleed said in an email.

Massana was an account executive at CJRW for seven years before joining the economic development commission, and CJRW is the longtime advertising and marketing agency for Parks & Tourism, which has announced that its $15 million a year contract will be open for bids in March.

CJRW also has the AEDC as a marketing client.

Finalists for the Parks & Tourism work are expected to be named in January, with selected agencies making pitches to a nine-member judging committee on March 21.

Gary Heathcott of CJRW, who helped make the winning pitch for lottery work, said that he could not comment at this point in the process.

Vogelpohl, president of Mangan Holcomb, also couldn’t comment on the awarding of the new contract just yet, but she said her firm would be busy working for the lottery through the end of the year.

“We’re focused on finishing the year strong for the lottery, and we’ve been asked to do a lot of things in that time frame.

“So we’re focused on all the work we have to complete.”