M/W, Mullen Hot on Trail of Bahamas Tourism

Officials from the Baha mas Ministry of Tourism will visit Martin/Williams and Mullen this week before choosing an agency to handle the client’s $10-15 million ad account, said tourism director general Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace.

Omnicom Group shop M/W, Minneapolis, and Interpublic Group-owned Mullen, Wenham, Mass., will host client officials early in the week.

Formal presentations from the agencies are not planned. Rather, Vanderpool-Wallace and other client officials intend to meet the teams that would be assigned to the business and discuss any pending concerns with shop executives, including M/W president Steve Collins and Mullen CEO Joe Grimaldi.

The ministry seeks to refocus its advertising on the Baha mas’ rich culture and friendly people, de-em phasizing typical Carib bean themes such as sun-soaked beaches and bronzed bodies, Vanderpool-Wallace said.

M/W and Mullen last week advanced from a group of semifinalists that also included Fallon, Minneapolis and New York, and HDC, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The incumbent on the islands’ con sumer ad account, Bozell, New York, and the client’s trade agency, Irma S. Mann, Strategic Marketing, Boston, were invited to defend, but chose not to take part in the review.

Bozell, thinking it was unlikely to retain the account, recruited Mullen to pitch the business, hoping to keep it in the IPG stable, sources said.

ISM chose to drop its pursuit of the account to pursue the competing Barbados tourism business.

Driving the search is the Baha mas’ first change of government in a decade, as Obie Wilchcombe replaced Tommy Turnquest as tourism minister this summer. The desire to combat the decline in travel to the islands was not the overriding cause for the review, Vanderpool-Wallace said.

Following Sept. 11, travel to the region has slipped about 10 percent in the first nine months of 2002, compared with the same period last year, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization.