Big Dig Managers Hike Ad Budget

Hub’s Top Shops Pass On $2 Mil. Assignment Despite Increase
BOSTON–Several large agencies will not be participating in the review for the Central Artery/Tunnel Project’s $2 million communications assignment.
Executives at some of Boston’s biggest shops told Adweek that the highly charged political climate surrounding the initiative to improve the city’s roadways makes it too much of a headache to pursue.
“No way,” said an executive at a Boston agency with years of experience working on state accounts when asked whether his shop would pitch. “It’s too small, too messy. People basically put up with the project now. If you start saying nice things about it [in an ad campaign], you’ve got a 50/50 chance” of the effort backfiring and alienating Massachusetts taxpayers.
An executive at another Boston shop, which had initially decided to pursue the assignment, said now he is not so sure. “Bad publicity always gives you pause,” the executive said.
Even Ingalls Advertising, which has performed pro bono work for the project, is not looking to win the account. Ingalls representative David Swaebe would not say why his shop is passing on the pitch, but one source close to the Boston agency said the potential for trouble outweighs any conceivable benefit.
Arnold Communications and Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, the largest shops in Boston, are also passing on the controversial assignment, agency officials said.
Project representative Andy Paven conceded the fact that the initiative has become “a lightning rod” for negative publicity. However, he defended the proposed communications effort as a way to set the record straight regarding the project’s potential benefits to Bay State commuters.
Paven is not concerned that some agencies are passing on the account and contends that enough qualified contenders will participate to make the review worthwhile, resulting ultimately in a first-rate campaign.
Known as the Big Dig, the $11 billion project is purported to be the most costly public works initiative in the nation’s history. Project officials initially sent review materials to about 15-20 advertising and public relations agencies mainly in Massachusetts for an assignment budgeted at $750,000 [Adweek, Dec. 15, 1997].
After scrutinizing responses, project officials noted that executives at many shops believed the budget was insufficient given the size and scope of the assignment, Paven said. Materials are now due by Jan. 26.