Friday, Oct 23–Ad Agency ‘Pageant’ Complete

OCEAN CITY—By the end of the day on Friday, there could be a winner in the city’s search for a new advertising agency.

What started with ten, but dwindled to eight prior to this week’s closed session presentations (Stick and Move of Pennsylvania and Aloysius, Butler, and Clark of Delaware pulled out of contention), is allegedly going to end with one lone agency getting the recommendation from the tourism commission, and that recommendation will be presented to the Mayor and City Council at Tuesday’s work session for the final approval.

After months of often heated deliberation and debate from city staff, elected officials, and members of the business community, the search for the town’s new advertising agency appears to have come to an end, as eight agencies walked in the beauty pageant this week at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in front of the judges, who included the city council, the mayor, and voting members of the tourism commission.

“There were very diverse presentations,” said councilman Doug Cymek. “Some were simplistic and others were extremely in depth, but I truly believe that there is a jewel in the rough so to speak amongst the candidates.”

Those who attended the closed door presentations from the eight agencies hailing from Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia and Pennsylvania, have been extremely mum on the details of the presentations after the it was decided to keep the public out of the beauty pageant of sorts.

Town officials took some heat from the public and from the business community when they announced that the agency’s presentations were to include too many “proprietary items” that would “skew the process if that information was released”, as noted and explained by tourism commission chair and council member Mary Knight.

After the first day of presentations on Tuesday, Knight stuck to her stance that keeping the sessions closed was the proper move.

“I do think that it was the right thing to do, and I think that despite the heat that we took from some people, the staff handled everything efficiently and professionally, and we protected the process so we could find the agency that is best for the town,” she said.

Cymek added that the amount of information that was presented by the individual agencies was often very revealing and thought that holding closed-door sessions was a prudent way to handle the process.

“There was a lot of proprietary stuff in those presentations, and just for the fact that we had two days of presentations, a company that had their time with us on Thursday, could have sent members to sit in the room on Tuesday if the sessions were open,” said Cymek. “For that very reason alone, I think the move to make the session’s closed was the right one.”

Cymek said he feels that the issue was blown out of proportion in the media and by the public at large who assumed that they should be concerned by things deliberated on behind closed doors.

“We have been extremely cautious not to skew this process, and I think that we structured the process in a way that will keep things stable and level for everyone,” said Cymek.

Three agencies went on Tuesday, and five agencies, including current town advertising agency MGH, presented on Thursday.  Each agency was given 30 minutes to basically introduce and pitch themselves to the room, and after the presentations were over, each agency fielded questions from the group.

Mayor Rick Meehan said that the process was seamless and extremely efficient.

“There were three rooms, so we had one agency set up in one room, then we all moved to another room when they were finished and watched the next one,” said Meehan.  “Everyone has their own style, and we saw some really good presentations.”

Meehan noted that the hullabaloo created by the argument on whether or not to allow the public into the room for the presentations was “counterproductive for the whole process.”

“I think it was just all political hoopla to be honest with you and that creates problems for everyone,” said Meehan.

New Chamber of Commerce President John Gehrig was in the room for the presentations, and said that all the fuss about the process seemed a bit anti-climactic after the first day of agency auditions.

“I didn’t go into this expecting to be blown away,” said Gehrig. “Basically, it’s a few businesses trying to earn the town’s business, so it’s essentially a half-hour long sales pitch.  Even if I could talk about the specifics, there’s honestly not that much to say.”

Council President Joe Mitrecic noted that just because the tourism commission picks a winner, it doesn’t mean that that agency will get the job.

“The Mayor and Council have the final approval, and there is a chance that who the tourism commission recommends is not the one that we feel is the best choice for the town, or maybe when they open the price bids, the one they picked is going to charge an astronomical amount of money,” said Mitrecic. “Hopefully, there will be one clear winner, but there are still a lot of intangibles.”