Foote, Cone & Belding last week became the latest agency to learn that procedure is as important as cost or creative in bidding for the California Lottery's ad account.
The lottery disqualified FCB's bid for its five-year, $125 million creative and media account because the shop faxed, rather than mailed, its rebid media cost proposal.
The disqualification of FCB, which sources said faxed its proposal after a flurry of documents went back and forth with the lottery, left several agency executives arguing that it is time the lottery change the way it does business.
"The mere fact that this review has become such a lengthy ordeal with so many twists and turns would clearly suggest that the process needs to change," said Grey president John Crosson.
Said another disgruntled agency source, "They're not doing the right thing for the state, and they're not doing the right thing for taxpayers. It is process over performance."
With FCB disqualified, the account last week was tentatively awarded to McCann-Erickson, the only other shop to submit a new cost proposal. McCann had the lowest score (the high score wins) going into the rebid. The agency had not even made it into the finals originally but was included last June after TBWA\ Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif., withdrew.
Several losing shops are either protesting or plan to do so, making McCann's chances of keeping the account virtually "nil," said one source. DDB has filed a protest with the lottery, FCB has filed an intent to protest, and Grey is also considering a protest, sources said.
The lottery will accept protests that are faxed.
FCB's disqualification marks the second time in the 15-month search that procedural issues have affected the outcome. The selection of DDB early last year was overturned when the lottery ruled that both DDB and the incumbent, Grey, did not provide enough information about their media buying partners, OMD and MediaCom, respectively. That information, while required by the lottery's rules, would not have affected the scoring that determines a winner, sources said.
The lottery chose to rebid the media portion of the business after discovering that the four agencies in the pitch, Grey, DDB and McCann, all Los Angeles, and FCB in San Francisco, had not used the same method to calculate media costs.
DDB and Grey both declined to submit revised cost proposals, arguing that the new scoring methodology introduced in the addendum to the RFP favored FCB.
DDB's protest to lottery director Joan Wilson, which was filed as a series of letters from Feb. 28-March 11, argues that by choosing to rebid only the media portion of the account, "The lottery's approach violates the basic principles of competitive bidding," and guaranteed that FCB would win the account.
FCB's intent to protest, filed March 13, states that its response, while faxed, was "timely, responsive and constituted a binding and irrevocable offer that did not provide FCB an unfair competitive advantage over any other bidder." It also says FCB's response was "necessary to fulfill the lottery's statutory obligation to award contracts on a competitive basis."
Representatives for DDB, FCB and McCann declined comment. Lottery reps did not return calls.
The lottery, scheduled to vote on McCann's selection next month, has 15 working days to rule on a protest, but that period can be extended if the lottery requires additional information, among other reasons, according to the lottery's competitive bidding procedures.