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'Don’t act like some small-town Trump': Industry rift over SATC tender

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Rifts have opened in South Australia’s advertising industry after the SA Tourism Commission awarded its major advertising contract to an interstate company.

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Industry body the Adelaide Art Directors Club (AADC) made an early entry into the debate, describing the decision last week as a “disgrace” which had made the local industry a “laughing stock”.

KWP, believed to be the only South Australian agency to bid for the lead contract, was the SATC’s key agency for 20 years before last week’s decision to award the contract to Victorian-based TBWA – affiliated with global giant Omnicom.

AADC put out a strongly worded statement about the decision before the SATC revealed that the so-called “B list” of agencies under the new contract would include locals Showpony, Blacksheep and Fuller. These three will take on some domestic campaigns on a project-by-project basis.

The AADC statement has angered Showpony managing director Jamie Scott who penned an “open letter” on AdNews, telling the industry body to “broaden your horizons and don’t protect your borders like some small-town Trump”.

He said that the local industry won back a major SA Health contract that went interstate by doing good work and the same should happen in this case.

The SA industry “must acknowledge that we now work in a bigger industry, in a much smaller world”.

“It’s not about South Australian versus interstate agencies anymore – that’s an outdated mentality – it’s about doing great work for clients based anywhere.”

Scott’s comments echoed a similar “open letter” published last week on another industry website, Mumbrella, by local advertising veteran Sputnik.

He wrote that it was time for South Australia to remove the chip from its shoulder.

“I’m personally outraged and disgusted to get an email from the club I am a life member of, describing me, by default as part of our industry, as a ‘laughing stock’. And then we have the gall to blame the brain drain on others, when we can’t even be proud of who we are and what we achieve?

“We are not Melbourne. We are not Sydney. And that’s OK. We’re still crying about ‘Melbourne stealing our Grand Prix’ and it’s exactly that sort of attitude that makes us a ‘laughing stock’.”

AADC president James Rickard, an industry veteran who has worked on SATC advertising including its much celebrated “Barossa. Be consumed.” campaign, defended the club’s strong statement, saying it was not directed at local players who gained a piece of the advertising action.

He said it was understandable that the likes of Scott were defending the SATC’s tender decision, but he believed there were broader issues that needed to be addressed by the State Government.

Rickard said the industry had become increasingly frustrated with State Government procurement processes for some years now, to the point that some no longer bothered to tender for government work.

He said the AADC’s robust entry into the debate had opened up the way for talks with the government about improving its procurement processes.

“We’re not naive enough to thank we should enter into a protectionist environment, but what we are after is a level playing field,” he told InDaily.

While he didn’t want to go into detail ahead of talks with the Government, he said there were ways to make tendering for work more streamlined and equitable for local advertising companies.

Meanwhile, KWP has raised concerns that it didn’t have the full picture when it tendered for the lead contract – worth about $5 million. The contract is for two years, with an option for a two-year extension.

KWP joint managing director David O’Loughlin told InDaily that the agency was seeking clarification about public statements from the SATC that indicated TBWA’s “international connections” were a key factor in the decision.

“We are concerned that (requirement) did not exist in the tender documents we received,” he said.

“We want to make sure we were on an even playing field.”

In a statement provided to media last week, the SATC said: “TBWA is part of the Omnicom Group of companies with a worldwide network of media and communication agencies, allowing the SATC access to a global creative talent pool”.

Asked about KWP’s concerns today, the SATC pointed out that the tender documents do reference the requirement to “deliver and engage on an international basis”.

However, “being part of a global network is not a mandatory requirement for the creative services tender”.

“As the contract winner, TBWA demonstrated impressive creativity, fresh, insightful thinking, excellent account management experience as well as in-depth understanding of the digital Adobe Marketing Cloud system and its ability to enhance the customer journey experience,” the SATC said in a written statement.

“They demonstrated contemporary knowledge of the national and global tourism landscape including the challenges South Australia faces. TBWA is part of the Omnicom Group of companies with a worldwide network of media and communication agencies allowing the SATC access to a global creative talent pool. The agency is equipped to meet our creative services needs in our key international and domestic markets.”

The commission said its primary objective was to make sure South Australia had the best opportunity to promote itself in Australia and overseas.

“We are competing globally for the tourism dollar with hundreds of other tourism destinations. To continue our record expenditure and jobs growth we need to work with partners that can give us a competitive advantage in a rapidly changing consumer market.”

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