6 Move Ahead In Big Dig

Controversial Review Kicks Into High Gear

BOSTON–The Central Artery/Tunnel Project received numerous responses to its revised questionnaire for an agency to help improve its image, but only a half-dozen contenders have chosen to move forward in the competition, a source said.
According to official documents obtained by Adweek, some 35 advertising and public relations shops as well as design firms and various consulting and public planning companies picked up pitch materials issued by the project, which is in the midst of a costly and controversial effort to improve Boston’s motorways.
In a surprise development, Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, a large Boston agency that was expected to pass on the pitch, has chosen to pursue the $2 million account, as have Holland Mark Martin Edmund in Boston and Harpell/Martins & Co. in Maynard, Mass., and three undisclosed shops, agency officials said.
Andy Paven, the project’s communications director, declined to disclose the names of the contenders. Among the shops that chose to pass after reviewing the questionnaire were Clarke & Co., Cohn Godley Norwood, Kelley Habib John and Greenberg Seronick O’Leary & Partners, all in Boston.
Executives at some large agencies chose not to review the questionnaire, even after the budget was upped from $750,000. They said they feared a no-win situation in which feel-good campaigns designed to play up strong points might actually alienate Massachusetts taxpayers [Adweek, Jan. 19].
Among those opting out from the start were Boston shops Arnold Communications and Ingalls Advertising, despite the fact that Arnold chief executive Ed Eskandarian has been a member of the initiative’s marketing committee and Ingalls has produced work for the project on a pro bono basis.
The next step is to review the proposals and invite qualified shops to make oral presentations to project officials, Paven said. An agency selection is scheduled for late next month. Questionnaires were due back to the client last Monday.
Nicknamed the Big Dig, the $11 billion initiative is purported to be the most expensive public works project in the nation’s history and has been severely criticized for cost overruns and unsettling neighborhoods in downtown Boston.