J. Walter Thompson has been named a finalist in the U.S. Department of Defense's Joint Recruiting Advertising Program (JRAP) review.
The Atlanta shop, longtime lead agency for the U.S. Marine Corps, is contending against Bates, the incumbent, and D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles and Foote, Cone & Belding, all of New York, and Mullen in Wenham, Mass.
Billings for the assignment are currently pegged at $15-20 million annually over the next five years.
"Military accounts are great," said an agency source involved in the competition. "The institutions are valuable and the people involved in the recruiting programs really care about their mission."
Bates has handled creative and media planning for JRAP for the last decade; media buying, overseen by the incumbent's sister agency, Zenith Media, is not in review.
Jones Lundin Beals of Chicago is managing the competition, scheduled to finish in October.
The review comes in the aftermath of a 1999 survey commissioned by the Department of Defense that raised serious concerns about the effectiveness (i.e, missed enlistment targets) of advertising commissioned by the military branches and their agencies.
As a result, over the last year, the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force all put their advertising accounts into review and ultimately selected new agencies. The Army left Young & Rubicam in New York for Leo Burnett in Chicago; the Navy exited BBDO in New York for Campbell-Ewald in Detroit; and the Air Force exchanged Bozell Kamstra in Irving, Texas, for GSD&M in Austin, Texas. Only JWT, which hit its target numbers for the past 70 months, held onto its business.
JRAP's cut to five shops came last week. As many as a dozen agencies, including Arnold in McLean, Va., were eliminated.
Mullen's involvement comes as something of a surprise, as the Interpublic Group agency has traditionally avoided government accounts.