Lottery hires new ad agency

State chooses TBC as Eisner replacement

December 09, 2006|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,Sun reporter

The Maryland Lottery will start running commercials and other advertising as early next week, ending a nearly monthlong respite it was forced to take when its advertising agency abruptly went out of business.

Lottery officials said yesterday that they hired Trahan, Burden & Charles (TBC) to create an advertising campaign for the state agency. Its former ad agency, Eisner Communications, stopped operating last month because it ran out of money.

Eisner had many high-profile clients that it left in the lurch, including Provident Bank and the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

But the lottery, which relies on heavy advertising for ticket sales, was hit particularly hard because it has to go through a public bidding process to hire an advertising company.

Procurement laws also make it difficult for the state agency to buy advertising spots directly from television stations, newspapers and other companies.

Lottery officials said they did not have figures on lost sales in the past month because there were fewer promotions, but they said that the advertisements were missed.

The lottery introduced a raffle-style game called Countdown to Millions about the time Eisner shut down. While state officials said the game has done reasonably well, they also think it could have benefited from an advertising push.

"We could use the extra boost from advertising, and now that we have the agency on board we believe we'll see a huge difference," said Carole Everett, a spokeswoman for the lottery.

Under the $849,000 deal, TBC will finish the remaining seven months Eisner had left on its contract. A one- to two-month extension is possible under the TBC deal. Eisner signed a $60 million, five-year contract with the lottery in 2001.

"Pricing was very competitive, and [TBC] offered the most fiscally responsible plan for the state of Maryland," said Buddy W. Roogow, director of the lottery.

TBC will be responsible for marketing and communications services, including creative development, advertising, media buying and planning and public relations.

TBC beat out more than 20 agencies that were part of the pre-bidding process. In choosing an agency, lottery officials also looked at past campaigns and experience. The agencies didn't have to present a creative pitch.

Another Baltimore firm, GKV Communications, had hired 10 former Eisner employees and had hoped to win the contract. GKV's bid price was about 37 percent higher than that of TBC.

GKV President Roger Gray said he did not think the contract could be done at the price TBC bid. Gray said he would keep the former Eisner employees despite not winning the contract. GKV said it was doing work for Provident.

"Because I had the people most recently working on the business, I had a clear understanding of what the staffing needs were for the account," Gray said. "I wouldn't have changed my bid one bit."

TBC President Tom Hollerbach said the agency has the staff and experience to run the contract effectively for the amount it bid.

TBC ran the lottery advertising contract for 15 years, from 1987 to 1992. Hollerbach ran the California lottery account when he worked for advertising firm BBDO West.

"Based on the size of our agency and our experience with the Maryland Lottery and my experience with the California lottery in the past, it can absolutely be done," Hollerbach said.

The firm had begun working on advertisements last night.

"The lottery is such a great brand and so much fun to work on that nobody will be complaining," Hollerbach said.

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