Bahamas Officials Hit the Road

Officials from the Ba-hamas Ministry of Tourism will visit Mullen and Martin/Williams this week before choosing a shop to handle its $10-15 million ad account, according to tourism director general Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace.

Omnicom Group agency M/W in Minneapolis and Interpublic Group-owned Mullen in Wenham, Mass., will host client officials early in the week. Formal presentations are not on the agenda.

Rather, Vanderpool-Wallace and other client officials intend to meet the teams that would be assigned to the business and discuss any pend ing issues with agency executives, including Mullen CEO Joe Grimaldi and M/W president Steve Collins. Agency chief creatives Edward Boches (Mullen) and Tom Kelly (M/W) are expected to be present.

The Bahamas is seeking to refocus its advertising on its rich culture and friendly people, de-emphasizing typical Caribbean themes such as sun-drenched beaches and bronzed bodies, Vanderpool-Wallace said. A decision is expected by year’s end, he said, though sources believe a winner may emerge next week.

Mullen and M/W last week advanced from a group of semifinalists that also included Fallon in Minneapolis and New York, and HDC in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Consumer ad incumbent Bozell in New York and trade agency Irma S. Mann, Strategic Marketing in Boston were invited to defend, but both ultimately withdrew from contention. Bozell, believing it was unlikely to retain the Bahamas account, recruited Mullen, hoping to keep the business in the IPG stable, sources said. ISM chose instead to pursue the competing Barbados tourism business.

Driving the search is the Bahamas’ first change of government in a decade, as Obie Wilchcombe replaced Tommy Turnquest as tourism minister this summer. The desire to combat the decline in leisure travel to the islands is not the overriding cause for the review, Vanderpool-Wallace said.

Following Sept. 11, travel to the region has slipped about 10 percent in the first nine months of 2002, compared with the same period last year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization. The Bahamas this fall began a newspaper advertising blitz in the U.S. to attract more visitors, particularly from southeastern states such as Florida.

The client spent nearly $15 million in 2001 and about $10 million on advertising through the first half of 2002, according to CMR.