Panel de­clines Tech pro­posal

Uni­ver­sity sought marketing, ad­ver­tis­ing con­tract with firm

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - MICHAEL R. WICKLINE

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.

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