$100 million media account gets no takers

Communications Canada considers revised RFP, splitting media among several agencies or moving it in-house

Communications Canada is leaving its options open as it reassesses how it is going to handle the government’s (estimated) $100 million media budget after only one unqualified bidder responded to its recent request for AOR proposals.

John Embury, director of communications for the minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, says the options include reissuing a revised RFP, using several agencies rather than one AOR, or moving it in-house. Embury says that no matter what is decided, PWGSC will hire staff that has experience in media planning, buying and advertising in general.

‘When and if we have an agency of record, the government has to have the experience to know what a real media plan is. We will be looking to have the experience in-house whether we perform the work or not.’

According to industry insiders, in addition to the government’s RFP being a tortuously long 100-page document, the agencies took exception to the fact that the document stated that the firm with the cheapest rates would always win and that the successful agency couldn’t have other government business.

The Institute of Communications and Advertising (ICA) sent a letter to the government on behalf of its members stating that because of these criteria, the agencies would not be responding. And they didn’t.

Embury says in the case of remuneration, the RFP did not say it was looking for the lowest rates altogether, but rather the lowest rates offered by qualified agencies, those that would achieve the standards the government has set.

He allows that even though there was a great deal of consultation before issuing the RFP, over-cautiousness may have resulted in an RFP that some see as unreasonable – but at the same time, he notes that Communications Canada has certain constraints that a private-sector client doesn’t.

‘We can’t just say we’re not going to consider price at all. We have an auditor general who is carefully looking at these things and the value we get for taxpayers’ money is a very important criterion. We can’t just be tossing gobs of dough around for no particular reason. Anyone who has been reading newspapers in the last year must know there’s a certain situation we’re responding to.’ (The promotion and sponsorship contract scandal involving Montreal’s Groupaction and others.)

Embury says there’s still a lot of work to do before a final decision is made, and that current agency Mediavision will continue to handle the business until its contract expires at the end of March 2004. Mediavision took over the account early in 1998 from Genesis Media, which had handled the business since 1984 when it was known as Media Canada.