StopPress understands that Ogilvy, DDB and .99 have been shortlisted as the final three agencies vying for the lead for brand and integrated communications segment of the Auckland Council account.
This development follows on from April's announcement that Auckland Council had released an expression of interest for communications services as part of the three-year review that it's legally required to undertake in order to ensure transparency.
In 2011, when the last review was undertaken, Ogilvy beat out strong competition from DDB and Colenso BBDO/.99 to keep the account on its books.
Prior to this, the account was held by Metromedia—founded by current Ogilvy chief executive Paul Manning—from 2000 until the agency merged with Ogilvy in 2007.
According to Nielsen's rate card statistics, Auckland Council spent $7.3 million on advertising in 2011, $6.1 million in 2012 and $7.2 miliion last year.
Previously, when Auckland Council made the decision to keep the account with the incumbent, StopPress speculated that logistics may have played a part. At the time it was thought that the rigmarole of shifting such a large account to another agency could've served as one of the reasons why the account stayed with Ogilvy.
This year, things could however prove to be slightly different, given that Auckland council has decided to split the previously consolidated account into three segments: lead for brand and integrated communications; digital communications; and integrated community communications.
Under the new arrangement, agencies are required to enter a separate pitch for each of these sections to be considered. And although the process has been ongoing for several months, at this stage only the shortlisted candidates for lead for brand and integrated communications have been determined (it's thought that the agencies vying for the digital account are required to submit their final pitch documents by tomorrow).
Although the new account structure does open the door to more specialist agencies to participate in the pitching process, some in the industry have criticised the change because it will make it difficult to deliver a uniform brand message across Auckland Council's offering. Splitting the account across what could potentially be three different agencies also means that Auckland Council will be spending less with each agency, meaning that it will not qualify for the reduced rates that come with higher spend.
This being said, it is becoming more common for major organisations to split their digital account in order to get a specialist digital agency on board. Nike, for example, works with Wieden+Kennedy for creative and brand identity and with AKQA on the digital side.
As usual, the agencies involved in the process are under strict confidentiality agreements and are thus precluded from commenting on any specific details involved with the process, but several questions have been sent to Auckland Council for further information (see below for responses).
As a side note, Colenso BBDO currently has the ATEED and Heart of the City accounts on its books, and the agency's responsibilities do sometimes overlap into the Auckland Council domain. Should .99 win any part of the Auckland Council account, this could result in further collaboration between the two Clemenger-owned businesses—something that wouldn't be out of the ordinary, given that they already work together on various aspects of the New World account.
Update (comments from Auckland Council's acting media manager Mark Hanson):
StopPress: Why did Council decide to split the account into three disparate accounts?
Mark Hanson: Council's approach to this strategic procurement aims to secure the optimal mix of vendors to support council's communication and engagement with Aucklanders. There is an ever greater focus on engaging in a two-way dialogue with our customers, citizens, residents and visitors in support of good decision-making as we create the world's most liveable city. Likewise, digital channels continue to grow in importance as an effective and accessible means for engaging with our diverse communities.
SP: What will each of the three accounts include? Will there be an equal split in spend between the three accounts?
MH: Council has not yet decided how many contracts will result from this procurement except that there will be a minimum of two. It is expected that new appointments will commence from 1 October 2014.
SP: Which agencies have been shortlisted (or have applied) for each of the different accounts?
MH: Council's procurement processes remain confidential while underway.
SP: Given that split means that Council might not spend as much with a single agency, this might preclude Council from qualifying for high-spend discounts. Does this mean that rate payers are not getting quite as much bang for their buck?
MH: Council's consistent approach to all procurements is to ensure that contracts deliver value for money for Aucklanders. No further comment can be provided while the confidential process is underway.
SP: How will you ensure uniformity across the board if different agencies hold each of the accounts?
MH: However, like many other organisations who choose to work with more than one agency to meet their needs, quality control measures will be in place at council to support consistency of communications. No further comment can be provided while the confidential process is underway.