Selling the asset sales: agencies preen for big Treasury account

It was not without a sigh and a grunt that agencies with relaxation on their minds received a notice from the Treasury on December 15 asking for interested parties to put their hands up if they wanted to work on the ‘extension of the mixed ownership model’ account. They obviously don’t know Christmas is a time of reflection for the marcomms industry. But it seems the biggest live pitch at the moment (aside from the decision on Vodafone, which is still thought to be in the hands of the global bods), is now down to the shortlist stage.

The account is split into three parts, with Treasury looking for “one or a number of service providers to provide marketing services, design services and communications services”. As per, no-one was able to talk about the account or the rumoured list of suitors, but one source we spoke to heard there are six or so agencies in the mix, including Ogilvy, Clemenger BBDO, TBWA\ (which has an existing Mighty River Power connection) and some of the big PR agencies (we also heard some of the presentations took place in Treasury’s marae, so they had to be given sans shoes).

With the government hoping to raise as much as $10 billion from the initial public offering of Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, Genesis and Solid Energy over the next four years, it’s a massive account. Apparently a full brief hasn’t been given yet and it’s more of a credentials pitch but one guess is that the government is hoping to do one campaign for each of the assets, and it’s likely to spend $2-2.5 million per campaign on the comms (plus a significantly higher amount to pay all the brokers who sell the shares).

While it’s big, it will also be very difficult to get right. As the election showed, asset sales are a very contentious issue, and some believe the government still doesn’t have the mandate to do it, so a big part of the campaign will presumably be based around convincing Kiwis that it’s a good idea to shell out for some shares—and, from a PR point of view, dealing with the inevitable criticism.

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