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Vegas Review Has Inimitable Style

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Guns, Religion Mark Bizarre Review With a Predictable Result
LOS ANGELES--It seemed almost more fitting for a three-ring circus than a pitch for an ad account, but then again, it was Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority began presentation day for its $27-30 million ad account with a prayer from a Baptist minister. That was followed by the pledge of allegiance.
The agencies' presentations were open to the public. Among the audience of 80-100 were the local TV news channels and onlookers from non-contesting agencies.
The agencies--incumbent R&R Advertising, Las Vegas; Colby Effler & Partners, Santa Monica, Calif.; and Young & Rubicam, San Francisco (with The Merica Agency, Las Vegas)--pitched in separate rooms. Several armed guards made sure rival shops didn't see each other's pitches.
The result was never in doubt, to hear the contesting shops tell it. R&R chief executive Billy Vassiliadis has served as a consultant to Gov. Bob Miller, and sources have suggested that his political ties have helped R&R keep its contract since 1980.
"We knew, without a doubt, going into it that we weren't going to get it," said Kim Haskell, Colby's head of business development. In fact, the shop pitched so it could gain exposure before the Las Vegas business community.
Colby's pitch emphasized parent Dentsu's global presence and blue-chip clients. It also noted that R&R's 15 percent commission is unusually high.
"In order to have any credibility, we had to win outright," said Vassiliadis, who asked the LVCVA to hold the review in the first place. He won the account, incidentally (but must renegotiate the compensation).
For its part, R&R showed no new work, relying instead on its track record and a claim that hotel occupancy has risen under its influence. It also tugged heartstrings by showing photographs of agency staffers' families--the account represents about half the shop's billings.
The client deliberated for just 10 minutes before making its decision.
"I still feel great about what we did we look at this pitch as a dry run," said Y&R's chief executive, Austin McGhie. --with Jane Irene Kell