CJRW Mounts Tourism Defense

After marketing Ark-ansas’ tourism for more than two decades, Shelby Woods knows the business well. For the first time in 13 years, he knows competition for the $17 million account as well.

Heathcott Associates and Sells/Clark, both of Little Rock, Ark., are also competing for the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism business, according to state tourism director Joe David Rice.

A year after retaining the tourism business in 1989, Woods’ firm, Woods Brothers Agency, merged with a crosstown rival to form Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, where Woods is now chairman.

No other agencies contended for the account in 1996, when the Little Rock shop’s contract expired.

This year five out of 80 agencies that received a request for proposal for the state’s largest advertising account responded. Two Little Rock shops—Burks & Parker and Nicholson Communications—were cut in mid-September.

The three remaining agencies will present creative and strategic ideas to the client’s governing body, the Ark-ansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission, on Nov. 21.

The charge: Present a campaign that will get more people to visit the state more often, stay longer and spend more dollars, said Rice.

The commission launched the review because it had been so long since the last one, Rice said, adding, “There’s no dissatisfaction at all with the incumbent.” The agency awarded the business will be responsible for strategy, creative, media and online advertising.

“When you’re spending taxpayer dollars, it makes sense that periodically there should be a competitive presentation to make sure you’re getting the best value,” Woods said.

The client does not want to change the 25-year-old positioning of “Arkansas the natural state.” Rice said, “We feel we have so much equity in that we’re not ready to give it up.”

Sells/Clark president Brian Clark said while the positioning should remain, it’s time the creative approach changed. “Travel and tourism of the past is the past,” Clark said. “Because of that you need a young, energetic firm to take [the account] forward, and that’s what we’re hoping to present to the commission.”

Neither Woods nor Heathcott president Gary Heathcott would comment on approaches their shops will take in the presentations. Still, Clark may already have some insight on what to expect: Both men have been his mentors in the past.