How Texas Was Won

Ten years after losing a controversial bid for the Texas tourism account to GSD&M of Austin, Texas, McCann-Erickson Southwest broke a lock many felt the incumbent had on the business ever since.
News of the decision came without fanfare Sept. 3 when a Texas Department of Economic Development purchase order made out to the Houston-based agency spurted out of the fax .
“We were pretty ecstatic about it,” said Tony Pace, executive vice president and general manager of McCann’s Houston and Dallas offices. “You never know what kind of factors influence this and are always a little bit anxious.
“I guess we were all optimists, but we had our eyes open about the history,” said Pace of GSD&M’s perceived hold on the $12 million account. A prebid meeting for a mandatory 1995 review attracted more than 30 shops; this year’s drew seven.
McCann, which had the account in the 1970s, received a two-year contract with three one-year renewal options. The shop will open an Austin site and break its first tourism work in early 1999.
“We’re proud to have done the work we’ve done for tourism over the years,” said GSD&M president Roy Spence. “We’ve taken Texas from an also-ran to the No. 2 tourist destination in the country. On the other hand, losing is not one of our core values, so it is disappointing.”
GSD&M staffers were “shell-shocked” by the news, one agency insider said.
Starting with a June prebid conference, the department was determined to conduct as open a review as possible, said tourism director Tracye McDaniel. “We wanted to make sure everyone had information of our strategic plans . . . in order to give their best shot [at] the business.”
The state department passed on remaining extensions with GSD&M in order to restructure the contract. The most notable changes involved international and revenue-generating programs in co-op marketing and licensing–which played to McCann’s strengths, said Pace.
Pace formerly headed McCann’s Momentum IMC unit in New York, handling co-op, promotional and event marketing jobs for clients like Coca-Cola and Outback Steakhouse. Also at Momentum was Bryan Christian, now McCann Southwest’s business development manager.
Pace declined to reveal McCann’s ap-proach, but agency sources said its pitch offered a “value strategy” message for Texas’ array of attractions. “Put more vacation in your vacation” was one themeline, a source said.
All creative proposals had to mesh with the department’s longstanding tag, “Texas–It’s like a whole other country.” The winning agency was also required to develop plans to utilize minority-owned agencies.
Although the decision was weighted (70 percent) toward the second-round creative and strategic presentations won by GSD&M, McCann’s bid of $3.8 million (to GSD&M’s $5.9 million) and higher capabilities scoring proved to be the difference. The Richards Group, Dallas, bid $3 million but withdrew prior to second-round presentations.
“We don’t make very much money on state business, but we know the costs involved . . . We had a realistic bid and we were higher [than McCann],” said Spence.
GSD&M’s proposed campaign involved the use of celebrities from Texas or those who call the state home, a GSD&M representative said. “Texas star power” was a theme used in the pitch, though it was not a proposed line for new ads.