The Kentucky Tourism Development Cabinet will hear pitches this week from eight in-state agencies vying for the $3.5 million account.
The business is currently held by Creative Alliance, Louisville, which is defending. The other finalists are The Beam Group, Doe-Anderson, Ott Communications, Paul Schultz Advertising, Power Creative and Sheehy & Associates, all in Louisville; and Ad-Success in Lexington.
Pitches will be made this week. Victoria Hessen, the client's department director, said a decision will be announced April 1 if there is "a clear-cut winner." If the cabinet is interested in several shops, she said, they will be invited back to pitch again, with a winner chosen by the end of April.
Creative Alliance, the largest agency in Kentucky, has held the account for six years and defended it twice. State law dictates the winning agency's one-year contract may be renewed once, but the account must be placed into an open review biannually.
Hessen said last week that CA's tagline, "Stop dreaming. Start driving," will likely be used in future campaigns no matter which shop wins the account. The agency's current TV spots use Kentucky natives The Everly Brothers crooning their classic oldie "Dream" over images of the state's natural beauty.
"[Creative Alliance has] done a good job," said Mary Ellen Sloan, chief executive officer of Lexington's Meridian Communications, which chose not to pitch. "The state would be crazy to give it away unless there's something seriously wrong."
Several contenders said the state is positioning itself as a weekend getaway for tourists from neighboring states who are within driving distance.
Kentucky's 1999 ad budget is almost double last year's, recognizing the increased tourism competition from neighbors such Tennessee which benefit from destination locations like Nashville and Dollywood, which have their own ad dollars to spend.