Council Unanimously Chooses New Marketing Agency; Mayor Recognizes Former Company

OCEAN CITY — After an expedited months-long process, resort officials this week approved a replacement private-sector advertising agency to handle the town’s marketing campaigns.

In September, a request for proposal (RFP) was prepared and distributed seeking bidders for the town’s advertising agency contract. Every 10 years, Ocean City shops out its advertising firm contract, and for the last 20 years, the town has contracted with the firm MGH and its founder and CEO Andy Malis to handle the town’s advertising campaigns.

At the beginning of the process this year, MGH advised the town it was going in a different direction and would not seek a renewal of the Ocean City advertising contract. Interest in the town’s advertising contract was robust with 34 agencies participating in the pre-bid meeting. Tourism and Business Development Director Tom Perlozzo and Communications Manager/Acting Tourism Director Jessica Waters and staff vetted the agencies who expressed interest in the advertising contract and winnowed the list to three finalists — BVK Advertising, Paradise Advertising and Marriner Advertising.

Perlozzo explained the process and the staff’s recommendation during a work session on Tuesday.

“Our recommendation is in the packet,” he said. “We started this ambitious schedule in June and created the request for proposal and sent it out in September. We met to review the proposals in November and ranked each and every one of them and narrowed the list down to three. As you know, you all reviewed the proposals earlier this month. After that entire process, we’re recommending going with BVK Advertising.”

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In early December, the Mayor and Council had their own work session during which they reviewed the three finalists. The finalists were rated based on certain criteria including the agency’s creative approach and philosophy, experience, case study examples, the overall account managing and staffing teams and, finally, the financial proposal.

BVK’s total agency fee would be $975,000, which includes retainer and production costs. Funding for the advertising agency contract is derived from room tax revenue. Based on the staff recommendation, the council ultimately voted 6-0, with Council President Matt James absent, to choose BVK.

Council Secretary Tony DeLuca said BVK’s presentation was simply better than the other two finalists.

“I’m also in support of BVK,” he said. “They were a level above and a step up. Their case studies were fantastic. I think they would be the most professional and their combination of new ideas and experience really stood out.”

Mayor Rick Meehan said all three finalists acquitted themselves well during their presentations, but agreed BVK was a step above.

“I think three very qualified firms were brought forward,” he said. “They were very specific about the types of advertising they would pursue if chosen. Their experience really set them a notch above the others. Their presentation was to the point and professional. They really did their homework and I think they’re the best.”

Councilman Mark Paddack agreed.

“I was very happy with all three of them,” he said. “BVK really floored me. They were prepared with an outstanding presentation.”

With the vote taken and the finalist BVK approved, Meehan took the opportunity to recognize MGH and Malis for their two decades of service to the town.

“I know we’re starting a new era with a new advertising agency,” he said. “It just want to take a moment to thank MGH, which has been our advertising agency for the last 20 years.”

Meehan pointed out how MGH shepherded the town through trying times, particularly during the recession in 2009, and its campaigns kept people coming to Ocean City while other destinations were pumping the brakes on their advertising budgets.

‘They built and developed the ococean.com site and they built our Facebook page,” he said. “Most people will remember the Rodney campaign. We took Rodney with us to an Oriole game and set him up on a lifeguard stand on Eutaw Street and people lined up to get pictures with him. We got a lot of exposure from that and nobody had any doubt it was an Ocean City campaign.”

Meehan pointed out other significant campaigns produced by MGH over the years. For example, he pointed out the End of the World campaign, the popular Cicada-Free Zone campaign, the Fun Family campaign and the Vacation Days campaign among others.

“They got us a lot of national exposure over the years,” he said. “When we did those press junkets in the big markets, they had the ability to really get us in the door. When we had a PR crisis, MGH always stepped up. I don’t want it to be forgotten just how MGH and Andy positioned us over the years.”

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.