Chicago Ad Firm Experiences Tech Difficulties After Legislative Rejection

Chicago Ad Firm Experiences Tech Difficulties After Legislative Rejection

Mike Sells had a very human reaction when he heard he was likely to lose a longtime piece of business — marketing Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

“I was very sad,” he said a couple of weeks ago.

But the situation may have changed.

After sticking with the Sells Agency of Little Rock through 17 years of its most dynamic growth, Tech had chosen Michael Walters Advertising Inc. of Chicago for a $385,000 marketing contract running through June 30, 2019.

But Arkansas lawmakers, including Sens. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs, and Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, unimpressed with the out-of-state choice, rejected the deal last week when the Legislative Council’s Review Subcommittee declined to “review” the contract. State agencies are hesitant to follow through on contracts that lack a positive legislative review.

Sam Strasner, Tech’s director of university relations, told Arkansas Business on July 12 that the new “vendor relationship” would not be established for “about a week,” and that he would be unable to comment until that time. He didn’t reply to a request for comment on Thursday, after the subcommittee decision, but he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Tech would “review all options for securing a marketing services vendor for the remainder of the 2017-18 fiscal year.” The fiscal year ends June 30, 2018.

Tech had narrowed a field of 19 marketing firms down to five finalists, but none is based in Arkansas. The Walters firm was favored for its expertise in efficient media buying, Strasner said.

Chesterfield asked during the subcommittee hearing why Tech would “go to Chicago to provide marketing and advertising services focused on brand awareness for students” primarily located in Arkansas.

Sells said on Thursday that he could not comment on the new developments, and it isn’t hard to guess why. Considering state lawmakers’ reaction to the out-of-state selection, he may well find himself back in the running as Tech moves forward.