Panel declines Tech proposal
University sought marketing, advertising contract with firm
A legislative panel on Wednesday declined to sign off on Arkansas Tech University’s proposed $385,000 marketing and advertising contract with a Chicago firm.
Arkansas Tech proposed having a contract with Michael Walters Advertising through June 30, 2019, according to the Bureau of Legislative Research.
Under the proposed contract, the firm would provide marketing and advertising services “focused on brand awareness, student recruitment, funding effort and capital initiatives,” and “assist in raising the stature and reputation of the university through media buying and positioning,” the bureau said in a written report to the Legislative Council’s Review Subcommittee. “As needed, the agency may also be engaged in the creative strategy process.”
The Review Subcommittee voted to approve a motion by Sen. Bill Sample, R-Hot Springs, not to complete its review of the proposal. State agencies rarely proceed with their contracts when a legislative committee declines to review them.
Asked afterward what the Russellville university will do now in light of the panel’s decision, Sam Strasner, Arkansas Tech’s director of university relations, said in email that “the university will work with the appropriate individuals in the days to come in an effort to review all options for securing a marketing services vendor for the remainder of the 201718 fiscal year.”
During the subcommittee’s meeting, Sen. Linda Chesterfield, D-Little Rock, said she’s concerned because “we are going to Chicago to provide marketing and advertising services focused on brand awareness for students, primarily located in the state.” She said she wondered what was in the process that precluded an Arkansas company from winning the contract.
Strasner said Arkansas Tech officials received 19 proposals from companies in response to a request for proposals for the contract. A university committee of seven officials narrowed the list to five.
“We invited those five to come to campus for in-person presentations and they did, and out of that, Michael Walters Advertising was judged by the committee to be the best to provide the service for Arkansas Tech University at this time,” he said.
Chesterfield asked Strasner what he was looking for that he found deficient in Arkansas companies.
Strasner said that what Michael Walters Advertising “really brought to the table was an understanding of efficiency
Chesterfield asked “what was so remarkable about somebody from Chicago, knowing where to place the ads and maybe go on NPR or something.”
in media buying.”
“That’s really the primary thing that we are looking for, and they very much impressed the committee with their ability to allow us to maximize our dollars and reach the largest audience with the smallest amount spent,” he said.
Sample asked Strasner who scored the proposals.
Strasner said seven members of Arkansas Tech faculty, staff and administration were assigned to the review committee. They were four members of the marketing and communications staff, the chief of staff in the president’s office, the chancellor from the Ozark campus and a journalism and communications faculty member.
Sample asked about the committee’s scoring criteria.
“The ability to place the media efficiently was certainly a major consideration,” Strasner said. “Their experience with higher education was a consideration. Those were some of the biggest criteria that we looked at as we went through this process.”
Chesterfield asked “what was so remarkable about somebody from Chicago, knowing where to place the ads and maybe go on NPR or something.
“I just don’t understand. We are trying to build Arkansas. We are trying to make sure that the people in this state are able to make a living and we’re going out of state for stuff,” she said. “When we are talking about marketing, we don’t have that many newspapers or anything else.”
Strasner said about 50 percent to 60 percent of the Arkansas Tech’s advertising has been online, and “it’s a lot of national ad networks on the digital side.”
The 18 other companies that submitted proposals included 160over90, Advance 360 Digital Marketing, Big Communications, BG AD Group, Campaignium, Cook + Schmid, ESM Digital, iMedia and Mindpower, Strasner said afterward. The other companies that submitted proposals included Richards/Carlberg, Sells Agency, Sensis, Stamats, Stone Ward, Sullivan Branding, Take 5 Media Group, The Communications Group and VisionPoint Marketing, he said.