Florida Lottery Awards Biz to St. John & Partners

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. Ending a protracted and contentious selection process, independent St. John & Partners has been named general-market agency for the Florida Lottery following a review.

The shop will be responsible for all creative and media services, and the estimated annual budget is $23 million. The contract runs for three years with an option to renew for three additional years.

In terms of major measured media, the lottery spent $16 million on ads in 2008 and $9 million during the first half of ’09, per Nielsen, though those numbers exclude online expenditures.

Omnicom Group’s Cooper DDB in Miami had handled the business since 2002. Controversy arose when the legislature ordered Florida Lottery secretary Leo DiBenigno to seek a new agency, but DiBenigno kept Cooper DDB aboard on a month-to-month basis.

DiBenigno, grilled in April by Florida legislators, said the review process took so long to start because the Lottery was preoccupied with its participation in the multi-state Powerball game and negotiating a contract with its scratch-off ticket vendor.

In the review, St. John and Omnicom’s Zimmerman in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., emerged as finalists. Zimmerman initially lodged a protest when St. John’s won, holding up the award for several weeks, and Machado/Garcia-Serra Communications, the client’s lead Hispanic shop, stepped in for a time as interim general-market agency. (MGS continues with Hispanic chores going forward.)

Jeff McCurry, president and COO at St. John, said: “We look forward to building on the base that has been established by interjecting new ideas and creativity to help grow the sales of Lottery products, leading to increased contributions to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund.”

Traditional broadcast, print and outdoor efforts are on tap, along with digital and social media outreach.