And then there were four… Aasman pulls out of Games marketing bid, two local firms remain

Advertising giant DDB Canada, along with its Whitehorse-based partner Aasman Design Inc., have dropped out of the race for a massive 2007 Canada…

Advertising giant DDB Canada, along with its Whitehorse-based partner Aasman Design Inc., have dropped out of the race for a massive 2007 Canada Winter Games marketing campaign contract.

The Edmonton firm was shortlisted with four others to manage the $5-million government-funded campaign.

“It’s a straight business decision,” said Aasman president and managing director Al Aasman.

“We reluctantly concluded it’s not in our best interests.”

On May 5, The Games host society tendered a Request for Proposals for a national media campaign intended to promote the North over the next 18 months.

With $2 million pitched in from the Yukon government, and another $3 million from Ottawa, the campaign would be a high-profile project for any advertising agency.

The host society received 16 submissions from various firms.

The list was whittled down to five finalists on May 31.

With DDB out of the picture, the remaining candidates are Cossette Communication Group of Quebec City, McDonnell Haynes Integrated Communications Partners of Toronto and Calgary-based firms Trigger Communications & Design and Zero Gravity Inc.

All are major national marketing companies that have partnered with local agencies from the North for the bid.

The Outcrop Group, an agency with offices in Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Iqualuit, has teamed up with McDonnell Haynes, while Whitehorse’s Inkspirationz Graphix has gone in with Cossette.

Kellett Communications of Yellowknife has hitched its wagon to Zero Gravity.

Trigger has yet to choose its local partner, but has narrowed it down to two unidentified candidates.

All are scheduled to make formal presentations to a group of government and business representatives from the three northern territories in Toronto on Wednesday and Thursday.

A final recommendation is to be made to the four-person Games selection committee, chaired by host society president Piers McDonald, by June 16.

“It’s really anybody’s race, to be honest,” said Dee Enright, senior manager of the campaign. “It’s anybody’s game.”

DDB was a strong candidate, having experience with marketing campaigns for the Commonwealth Games, Canada Senior Games and Hockey Canada.

And Aasman gave DDB one of the strongest representations on the ground in Whitehorse.

Aasman declined to go public with the details of his company’s decision to pull out before the selection process was complete.

“I don’t want anything we say to affect whatever anyone else is doing,” said Aasman, noting his company would still be willing to work with whoever won the contract.

“We’re sorry to hear they pulled, actually,” said Enright. “It would have been nice to see them there, but we respect their business decision. I don’t think it was an easy one for them to make.”

The campaign will use the Games as a spotlight, but has the overall objective to boost tourism, investment and residency in the Yukon, NWT and Nunavut, said McDonald.

“It will, basically, be presenting a contemporary vision of the North, and the fact that the North has come of age economically, politically, socially,” he said.

“Obviously we will be referencing the Games, but the message is much broader,” he said.

The campaign will begin this fall and continue throughout 2007 after the end of the Games, which run from February 23rd to March 10th.

“Relatives from down south should be phoning us and saying, ‘We saw you guys on TV,’ probably around September-Octoberish,” said McDonald.

The initiative, which Trigger president Larry Bannerman calls a “pivotal time for northern Canada,” will need an agency to provide strategic planning, creative, production and promotional work, media planning and buying and public relations services.

It will not be particularly profitable for whoever ends up winning the bid, but will provide the agency with excellent exposure, said Enright.

Aasman estimated about 80 to 85 per cent of the $5 million will end up in the pockets of radio, TV, newspaper and magazine media outlets, and only about five per cent will go towards campaign and account management work in the North.

NWT and Nunavut have received $1.5 million each for the campaign project from the federal government’s Northern Economic Fund, while the Yukon’s $2 million is coming out of the territory’s own pocket.

Bannerman thinks the project is an outstanding initiative.

“This campaign will have far-reaching implications for northern Canada,” he said.

“It will completely change how Canada defines itself.”

The application requirements were considerable, with each applicant having to submit a proposal package demonstrating both an ability to run a national media campaign as well as a strong knowledge of the North as well as Northern Aboriginal cultures and issues.

“It’s pretty stiff competition,” said Outcrop Yukon IT project manager Jason Rayner.

“We’re familiar with all the other companies that are in the race for the bid, and I’d definitely say that I don’t think any of them are slouches by any means. Ultimately whoever wins it is going to be fairly deserving.”

Rayner said his company is in a unique position because it is the only marketing agency with offices in all three northern territories.

Two of the agencies will be making presentations on Wednesday and two on Thursday at the St. Andrew’s Club & Conference Centre in Toronto.

All will be provided with the same opportunity to pitch their proposals, said Enright.

“I think most of ‘em are really excited about it,” she said.

“They all think, no matter what happens, it’s good for the North, which I really think it is.”