Tennessee Puts Lottery Business on Fast Track

Tennessee wants a lottery, and it wants one fast. The state approved the idea in June, a president for the new Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. was hired in September, proposal requests for the $18 million ad account went out last week, and a decision is set for Dec. 15. The new agency will have just 45 days to produce a campaign in time for the lottery’s Feb. 10 kickoff.

Tennessee’s effort is being run by Lottery Corp. president Rebecca Paul, who has held similar positions in Georgia, Florida and Illinois. Although the Lottery Corp. would prefer a Tennessee shop, the business is open to out-of-state agencies.

Tennessee has only a handful of shops big enough to tackle the retail-heavy, high-profile business, and several smaller agencies are forming partnerships to vie for the account.

The biggest shop in the state is the Buntin Group, a Nashville independent that claims $85 million in billings and counts the United Methodist Church among its clients. CEO Jeffrey Buntin said last week that he was uncertain whether the church, whose bylaws prohibit gambling, would consider the lottery to be a conflict. A church representative was not available for comment.

Memphis independent archer> malmo, the state’s second biggest shop with $65 million in claimed billings, has teamed up with The Tombras Group in Knoxville and multicultural shop Trust Marketing in Memphis. Combined, the agencies claim $100 million in billings and have a total staff of 150.

Brushfire in Whippany, N.J., which handles New Jersey’s lottery account, was brought in to advise the shops. The agencies are connected through Worldwide Partners, a network of independent shops.

“We’re going after it,” said Cynthia Ham, an executive vice president and principal at archer>malmo. “It would be a very prestigious account, and this budget doesn’t come along very often.”

Gish Sherwood & Friends in Nashville has partnered with at least two other agencies, which it declined to name, and has hired Denver-based consultant Tom Seaver to guide the team through the review process.

David Bohan of Bohan in Nashville, with estimated billings of $40 million, said his shop is passing on the contest because of the demands of the business. “It’s going to be a fray, an account under the microscope,” he said.

The winner of the account will face the challenge of targeting the lottery’s message to a geographically and culturally diverse state. “They’ve got to represent Memphis, Nashville and east Tennessee,” noted Geoff Nixon, who heads Georgia’s $20 million lottery account as chairman of Interpublic Group’s Austin Kelly Advertising in Atlanta.

Alhough this is a government-run review, Nixon, who has worked with Paul, said chemistry will count for a lot here. “I think it’s about someone who the committee feels can get on her wavelength very quickly,” he said.

Paul, 54, is getting paid $750,000 a year plus bonuses to ensure that the game starts up on time. Brent Pennington, who studies gaming for QLot marketing in North Kingstown, R.I., said her experience is likely to make the rushed schedule a manageable one.

“I’d be concerned if it were a rookie marketing director, someone less qualified than Rebecca Paul,” Pennington said. “But she knows how to work her vendors and suppliers, and is not going to be caught in the lurch.”

Paul was not available for comment.