Hot Springs Rehires Combs

After receiving proposals from more than 20 agencies for its $1.6 million account, the Hot Springs (Ark.) Advertising and Promotion Commission decided to reject all comers and reinstate its former shop, Combs & Co. of Little Rock, Ark.
Don Raulie, the commission’s executive director, said seven commissioners approved by a single vote the decision to reinstate Combs after chairman Michael States challenged an earlier decision to terminate that agency’s contract.
Combs was given notice on the account in April after it won the ad business of Tunica County, Miss. At that time, the commissioners voted that Combs’ new account represented a conflict of interest with the Hot Springs, Ark., tourism business. States and four other commissioners were among those who voted to cancel the contract.
A subsequent disagreement on what constitutes a conflict of interest led to the overturned vote.
Raulie, who does not have a vote, has been candid about his support of the original decision. “In my mind–and I’ve been very open about this with Combs–Tunica is a conflict.”
Paul Johnson, vice president of public relations at Combs, said his agency decided to submit a request for proposal after it was terminated because it disagreed with the commission’s initial decision.
“I think the commission acted very quickly and called the first meeting without giving enough thought to what really constitutes a conflict of interest,” Johnson said.
Johnson maintains that the two destinations compete for different categories of travelers. “Tunica is a casino gaming destination. Hot Springs is a family getaway. They are completely different markets,” Johnson said.
Raulie said the agency will continue to be evaluated annually, as it has been in the past.