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Using Miles: CJRW Touts Tourism Ally

3 min read

What was born in Florida, speaks 12 languages and has traveled nearly 2 million miles on business?

That would be Miles Partnership, the digital firm promoting Arkansas tourism as a subcontractor to CJRW, longtime holder of the state of Arkansas’ most lucrative advertising contract.

A week and a half ago, CJRW acknowledged its arrangement with Miles, based outside Sarasota, as lawmakers approved the $15.2 million-a-year contract for fiscal 2018. The pact with the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism is renewable annually for up to seven years.

Miles Partnership will be taking over the role performed for the past couple of decades by Aristotle Inc., the Little Rock digital marketer that shared the contract with CJRW and operated the website Arkansas.com. Aristotle chose not to bid again for the work last fall.

Miles Partnership may be little known here, but it serves more than 90 different travel brands, including destinations like Hawaii and Bermuda, and it partners with more than a dozen state tourism agencies like the Colorado Tourism Office, the Kentucky Department of Travel and Georgia State Parks & Natural Resources.

Miles first combined with CJRW last year to promote the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, CJRW consultant Gary Heathcott told Arkansas Business. “I asked them to join us in our presentation to head up the ‘digital’ marketing efforts for the Lottery … When we learned that Parks & Tourism work with the traditional advertising agency efforts, we asked them to participate …”

CJRW surprised some competitors by going for the lottery contract; rivals said it faced a potential conflict in representing both the Lottery and Oaklawn Racing & Gaming of Hot Springs, a rival for gaming dollars. But CJRW pointed out that it committed separate teams to handle the Lottery and Oaklawn accounts, an approach that Miles Partnership also believes in. The Florida agency is structured into “multiple dedicated teams focused on clients that aren’t in competing markets,” said Jay Salyers, the senior vice president for special projects. Those teams then add local hires for “even more focus for specific destinations.”

Privately held Miles had almost $60 million in revenue in 2016 and has been around since 1990, when founder Roger Miles bought a struggling travel guide called SEE. The company’s focus slowly shifted to digital pursuits, and now it has 200 employees who collectively speak 12 languages and have traveled the equivalent of 80 times around the world serving clients in 37 states and five countries.

“Tourism is what we do,” Salyers told Arkansas Business. “We live and breathe it every day.” 

CJRW has a long history of promoting Arkansas. The Woods Brothers Agency held the state tourism contract from the late 1970s until it merged with Cranford Johnson Robinson Associates to form CJRW in 1990. CJRW has worked the account since, and nobody was shocked when the state, seeking a single agency of record, chose CJRW again this spring.

As a subcontractor, Miles Partnership is much like other vendors (printing companies, media outlets, etc.) used by CJRW, and its financial agreement is not part of the publicly available contract between the state and CJRW.

Under the last, slightly smaller contract, CJRW handled $11.7 million of the yearly disbursal; Aristotle’s share was about $1.5 million.

Since the contract includes money for media buys, only a portion of the total is revenue for the ad firms.

“We may be a big tourism marketer, but CJRW is certainly the biggest tourism advertising agency in Arkansas,” Salyers said. “It really is a good match.”

Miles already has two full-time employees already in Little Rock, and it is lining up office space, according to Salyers. Visit Rogers is another client, so the Florida firm is considering opening a northwest Arkansas office.

“Every destination has a unique story to tell,” Salyers said. “We like to really understand and uncover the places and stories and bring them to life digitally. We’ll be talking to industry stakeholders, and contacts with the convention and visitors bureau community will be vital. We want people to put Arkansas on their travel list, and then dig deeper to find the places that match their travel desires.”

The state is known for its natural beauty and outdoor pursuits, but some travelers might be seeking foodie delights, music or nightlife. “One focus will be personalized content,” Salyers said. “Of course we’ll have content for the outdoor traveler, but we’ll also serve up imagery and content specific to people who want a more urban vacation. Whatever we determine people are interested in, we’ll have material specifically for them.”

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