Agencies eye contracts

Campaign rhetoric aside, no one in the advertising agency business expects the new Liberal regime will handle government contracts any differently than previous administrations.The day after the Oct. 25 votes were counted, the industry was ripe with speculation about where government...

Campaign rhetoric aside, no one in the advertising agency business expects the new Liberal regime will handle government contracts any differently than previous administrations.

The day after the Oct. 25 votes were counted, the industry was ripe with speculation about where government jobs would land.

And the business is huge.

Federal government advertising represented $113.3 million in media billings alone last year.

At the top of the list of Liberal-aligned agencies were Vickers & Benson of Toronto and BCP Strategy-Creativity of Montreal, both of whom played a major role in the federal election.

Members of Red Leaf, the ad group formed to handle election advertising for the Liberals, included: V&B President and CEO John Hayter; Terry Bell, executive vice-president, copywriter; Bev Cornish, vice-president senior broadcast producer; and Larry Gordon, senior vice-president associate creative director.

Also working on the team was Marlene Hore, former creative director at J. Walter Thompson.

As well, YTV Canada contributed President Kevin Shea and Kathleen Bazkur, director of on-air promotions.

Hayter says of the Liberal win: ‘Obviously now we [v&b] will have the opportunity to compete for government business, something we haven’t been able to do for nine years.

‘We expect to be a net winner [of government business] over the next couple of years,’ he says.

‘I’m in the dark how government business will be handled. There has been no discussion of what the process will be.’

East Coast agency group Bristol Communications has offices in Fredericton, n.b., St. John’s, Nfld., and Dartmouth, n.s.

The Dartmouth office has the Nova Scotia Liberal Association account, handling all advertising during the Nova Scotia provincial election earlier this year and some media placement for the Liberals during the recent federal election.

Even with its Grit connections, Bristol handles External Affairs Canada, Fisheries & Oceans Canada and Bank of Canada from St. John’s and Public Works Canada and Transport Canada from Dartmouth.

Big winner

The big winner among Quebec agencies is clearly BCP Strategy-Creativity, which alone managed the successful Liberal party advertising campaign.

According to Jacques Sauve, vice-president, public affairs, at bcp, agency contracts with government departments are based on common advertising practices.

‘We call them contracts, but, in reality, they’re agreements,’ Sauve says.

‘These contracts last for three months and are renewed on a daily basis,’ he says. ‘This is the reality in our business. Either side can terminate an agreement after 90 days.

‘When you get a contract with government you have to work for it. It just doesn’t come.’

Sauve says agencies affiliated with the losing side in an election obviously lose new government business.

‘It’s the unwritten name of the game,’ he says.

Sauve says the mood at bcp the day after the election was good.

‘We’ve won, and we worked very hard, especially creating a strong advertising campaign, which has earned praise from Vancouver to St. John’s,’ he says.

bcp has no federal business at the moment.

‘We’ve been in the dog house since 1984,’ Sauve says.

A few agencies have managed to hold themselves away from one party and maintain the middle ground.

Ian Saville, executive vice-president of Cossette Communication Marketing, says his agency tries to remain neutral and is not aligned with one party.

Saville says right now the agency’s government work does not represent a large part of its business because the Canada Post account has been quiet, Canadian Deposit Insurance has been inactive, and now that the election is over, the Elections Canada business it had through its Montreal office is complete.

In the West, another Canadian-owned agency, Vancouver-based Palmer Jarvis Advertising, seems to have the same philosophy as Cossette.

Palmer Jarvis has four pieces of federal government business: Department of External Affairs, Department of Finance, Fisheries and Oceans, and Revenue Canada.

In Toronto, the federal government’s media-buying agency-of-record, Genesis Media, has also managed to seem neutral although it is 50% owned by Vickers & Benson.

Bruce Claassen, Genesis president, says he has no idea what the new government will do about advertising contracts and has received no signals from Ottawa.

Federal government spending in 1992 was $113.3 million, but Claassen says 1993 spending will be more modest because last year’s figure reflected advertising expenditures for the referendum, Canada 125 and all Crown corporations.

The Advertising Management Group in Ottawa is the government body that tenders and polices government advertising contracts.

No rule

Chuck Guite, amg director, has held his post during various governments.

Guite says there is no rule in place that voids contracts when a new government takes over.

Like the Liberals, the Conservatives set up a special entity, The P.C. Advertising and Communications Group, headed by Tory adman Tom Scott and pollster Allan Gregg, to handle its campaign.

According to informed sources, the ‘brain trust’ associated with the Quebec pc campaign includes Daniel Melchers and ad agency Pulicite Martin.

Agencies with Conservative ties are bracing themselves for the defection of the government’s multi-million dollar advertising business.

They include: Deacon Day Advertising/The McLauchlan Group, Axmith McIntyre Wicht, with the plum Tourism Canada account, Foster Advertising, all of Toronto, and McKim Communications of Winnipeg.

About one-third of Foster Advertising’s business comes from the federal government.

Its accounts include the Bank of Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and an assignment that has been dormant this year, Investment Canada.

Larry Anas, Foster’s senior vice-president, managing director and creative director, says he does not know what is going to happen with contracts between government and advertising agencies.

But Anas says he does not believe the new Liberal government will go back to having 100% Canadian ownership as criteria for awarding contracts ‘because of free trade, and also, today, its options would be too limited.’

Deacon Day Advertising and its subsidiary, The McLauchlan Group, handle advertising for the Canadian Armed Forces and have done some work for Industry, Science and Technology on issues such as the North American free trade agreement.

Agency Chairman Cal McLauchlan says, in the past, agencies have been given between 30 to 60 days to clean up the account to be passed on to the new agency.

McLauchlan says the transfer in 1984 took some time because the amg, which had been set up in 1980, took the new government through the process of reviewing the business.

‘It’s a different world now, and it won’t be the way it used to be,’ he says. ‘Not all communications is handled by traditional advertising anymore.’

McLauchlan suggests that because of the increase in use of direct mail and other modes of advertising, the government will use the amg to hand out assignments on more of a project basis.

Based on the current spread of federal advertising accounts with Quebec agencies, Martin, Ogilvy and Marketel have the most to lose, while bcp, which handled Liberal party advertising and has had no federal business since 1984, seemingly has the most to gain.