RDW nabs state advertising contract from PriMedia

Communications agency RDW Group has nabbed the state advertising contract from PriMedia Inc., which held a controversial master-purchase agreement with the state that expired Dec. 31.
Posted 1/5/12

(Updated, Jan. 9)

PROVIDENCE – Communications agency RDW Group has nabbed the state advertising contract from PriMedia Inc., which held a controversial master-price agreement with the state that expired Dec. 31.

PriMedia had benefited from a last-minute insertion into the fiscal 2012 state budget as an amendment that effectively steered all of the state’s TV and radio advertising business to the Warwick-based company.

R.I. Department of Administration Director Richard Licht explained that the media buying contract with PriMedia expired at the end of 2011.

The new agreement is “carefully worded” so that the state is “not bound” to one agency and could also purchase directly from media outlets, if needed.

“A lot of thought went into [this RFP],” he said. “This took a lot of time, thought and effort. I’m proud of the team that I assembled and that I went to our customers [the state departments].”

The state uses private firms specializing in media buying to get better deals on advertising space on television, online, social media and print media, on behalf of all of its departments and quasi-public agencies, such as the Narragansett Bay Commission.

The departments that spend the most on advertising are: the lottery, the department of health and the department of transportation.

PriMedia, through its contract that ran from Jan. 1, 2009, through Dec. 31, 2011, earned a 15 percent commission. RDW, which also landed a three-year contract, will take a 5 percent cut, effectively saving the state money.

The RFP also included a summary of the state media spending during the three-year term of PriMedia’s contract, which totaled $7.78 million. The Lottery Commission spent $3.56 million, and expenditures related to the Providence Journal from October 2009 to October 2011 were $787,986.

RDW Group’s contract became effective Jan. 1. The state’s criteria for selecting the company was by a 100-point, two-phase system; phase one consisted of organization and staffing, 10 points; experience and capacity, 25 points; work plan/approach, 25 points, and the second phase was cost at 40 points. RDW “scored the best,” Licht said.

PriMedia did not respond to the RFP for the new contract, believing it was “flawed,” a PriMedia spokesman said.

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The state should run an RFP like that for every kind of service. The state just saved millions by having a few private firms compete. Good idea. How about letting private firms compete against state and city departments for other types of services like garbage collection, schools, prisons? I bet the private firms would come up with ways to save millions every time and improve the service too...but don't hold your breath waiting for RFPs like that. At least the state is making private firms compete for large contracts and not handing out one-bid contracts.

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