A Flashy R&R Keeps Vegas

Colby, Y&R See Pitch as a Las Vegas Entrƒe
LOS ANGELES–It seemed more like a three-ring circus than a presentation for an ad account. But then again, that’s Las Vegas.
Last week, 18-year incumbent R&R Advertising emerged as the winner of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s $27-30 million, five-year advertising contract.
The Las Vegas shop, which late last year convinced the authority to call for competitive bids to dispel rumors of unethical political ties to the account, kept the business with a showy multimedia presentation that drew crowds. The client deliberated for just 10 minutes before making its decision.
The other finalists–Colby Effler & Partners, Santa Monica, Calif., and Young & Rubicam, San Francisco, pitching with The Merica Agency, Las Vegas–felt the odds were stacked against them, but pursued it anyway to drum up other Las Vegas business.
“We knew without a doubt going into it that we weren’t going to get it,” said Kim Haskell, Colby’s executive vice president and head of business development. “But the review drew attention to Las Vegas, and over the next five years [R&R] is going to be watched very closely.”
Despite rumors that it had the business in the bag, R&R arrived with guns blazing, presenting a high-tech polished show. “In order to have any credibility, we had to win outright,” said agency chief executive officer Billy Vassiliadis.
Telling the client it offered “a lot more than advertising,” R&R cloaked the presentation room in black, with starlike lights shining from the walls. Board members in reclining chairs watched the agency’s latest campaign, replete with loud music and MTV-like visuals, on digital monitors.
Vassiliadis and his colleagues spoke of the “partnership” between the LVCVA and R&R, and outlined how the shop is promoting the city to Wall Street investors and working to bring more airplane flights and events into Vegas. The agency highlighted the city’s shopping and dining options, and noted that hotel occupancy has increased in the five months since its latest campaign broke.
The presentations to the board, which included Las Vegas mayor Jan Jones and other politicians and business executives, were open to the public and drew an estimated 80-100 people.
Sources said the contenders eventually felt the pitch served as a way to attract new business to Las Vegas and R&R. “We saw the presentations as an opportunity to springboard into regional and national ad business,” said Vassiliadis.
Colby Effler gave a strategic presentation emphasizing parent company Dentsu’s worldwide presence and blue-chip client roster. The agency also explained how it would position Las Vegas creatively.
Y&R and The Merica Agency also pushed their global presence. Led by Y&R president and chief executive officer Austin McGhie and executive vice president and chief creative officer Stephen Creet, the group emphasized its media, branding and ethnic resources, and its local connection through Merica.
“The client … didn’t want to go with an agency that would push things,” said McGhie. “I still feel great about what we did; we’re interested in building a larger travel and tourism effort, so we looked at this pitch as a dry run.”
Vassiliadis said the agency is now customizing a new compensation package with the LVCVA.