OC To Explore Ad Agency Options

OCEAN CITY — Ocean City is getting ready to shop the town’s advertising contract through a competitive bid process.

During Tuesday’s Tourism Commission meeting, Communications and Marketing Director Jessica Waters outlined the timeline for the request for proposal (RFP) seeking bidders for the town’s advertising firm contract. For the last 20 years, the town has contracted with MGH and CEO Andy Malis to handle television, digital, radio, print and billboard advertising campaigns.

Malis works closely with town tourism officials and leadership of organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, for example on conceptual plans for campaigns and his team carries out the marketing intentions. The tourism commission has decided to put together an RFP soliciting bids for a new advertising contract, according to Communications and Marketing Director Jessica Waters.

“The tourism commission some time ago voted to do an RFP for our advertising contract,” she said. “It has a pretty aggressive timeline. It needs to be in order for us to award a bid for a new agency. We discussed in length what we wanted the criteria to be and what qualifications we would expect.”

It remains uncertain if MGH will submit a bid to renew its advertising contract with the town after two decades, but the company will likely be among the bidders. The RFP at this time is not any reflection on the town’s satisfaction with MGH. Officials say it’s mere’s a healthy exercise to open the bid process and see what’s in the marketplace. Waters said in the meantime, her office continues to work with MGH on a possible transition.

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“We expect a smooth transition with MGH,” she said. “They have been very cooperative in working with us. We’ve had a couple of meetings with them.”

Some on the commission questioned if it was known whether MGH would be among the bidders for the new advertising contract. Tourism and Business Development Director Tom Perlozzo said MGH is likely waiting to see what if any changes are spelled out in the new RFP before deciding to rebid for the contract.

“They’re waiting to see the RFP,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a last-minute call for them. I expect they would participate.”

Commissioner Michael James questioned if there had been some kind of falling out between the town and MGH.

“Why wouldn’t Andy want to submit a bid?” he said. “Is there some sort of adversarial relationship?

Perlozzo said the opposite was true, and he has reached out to Malis and MGH to be part of the bidding process.

“I asked him to submit,” he said. “After 20 years as our agency, he has a competitive advantage because of his vast knowledge of Ocean City and the area.”

Councilman and commission member John Gehrig said sending out RFPs and soliciting new bids every few years was a healthy process for all involved. He said he expected MGH and Malis would be part of that process.

“We had an extensive review 10 years ago,” he said. “We’re basically doing what we did 10 years ago. MGH was the incumbent and they won the bid.”

Meanwhile, Waters said between the advertising contract RFP and the other rebranding projects the town has in progress, it will be a busy time for her office and the tourism commission.

“This commission and our office will be very busy over the next couple of months,” she said. “We have two really aggressive projects going on at the same time.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.