State dumps $100-million on local ad agencies and PR firms…
6:42 AM EDT on March 31, 2022
I guess Swadley's isn't the only local business sucking on the taxpayer's teat!
Earlier this week, The "new and improved" Oklahoman reported the state has spent just shy of $100,000,000 with local PR and marketing firms since 2019. As the old VI Marketing creation Fogzie would say, "That's Not Cool!"
The report was courtesy of Carmen Forman and Ben "BBQ Bro" Felder – two reporters who will now find themselves on every PRSA, Ad Club, and Press Association shit list.
Via The Oklahoman:
Public relations companies have found a lucrative customer base among state agencies in recent years as many have signed off on millions of dollars in contract work for everything from website design to brand management.
Since 2019, state agencies have spent more than $99 million on public relations and marketing work from outside companies, according to state financial records.
The Oklahoman reviewed more than 60 contracts to learn more about the type of work public relations firms are doing for state agencies, utilizing records from the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services showing payouts from all state agencies and higher education institutions to 16 Oklahoma-based public relations, advertising and branding agencies.
Way before I made show-running this website my full-time career, I worked in the marketing and PR field for almost a decade with very legitimate companies. Which begs the question...
"What the fuck am I doing?!?"
Seriously, I'm over here busting my ass, begging people to chip in $5 a month to read our patented content, when I could just as easily be getting rich on the taxpayer's dime. I really need to get my priorities straight!
The Oklahoman shared a graphic that showed which agencies are raking in the most taxpayer dollars. Here it is:
Before I write anything else, let's be honest about one thing – Oklahoma taxpayers have always helped subsidize the local PR and marketing cliques.
If this article was written 25 years ago, I'm sure Ben and Carmen would have also found cozy spending between state government and local agencies. The only difference is that A) Ackerman McQueen and Jordan Associates would have been #1 & #2, and B) the Gaylords would have killed the article in its early stages.
With that being said...
$70-million with VI Marketing and Branding???! Holy shit! I knew I should have asked for more money the last time they asked me to judge their chili cookoff!
In all fairness to VI, a decent chunk of that $70-million is spent on local media buys that we at The Lost Ogle, despite having a large local reach that can rival our corporate-owned competition, never see a drop from. Either way, it still seems excessive!
The other big winner is local influencer Renzi Stone and his marketing firm Saxum. They landed in the 2-spot with $15.5-million in state billings, which is considerably less than $36,882,819 Eduardo Najera made in his NBA career. It's a shame Renzi's attempt to buy up to the #1-spot back in 2020 didn't work out.
The Oklahoman's story is very in-depth and makes you question where and how our state agencies, which at last check have their own marketing and communications divisions, are spending money. They dove into a lot of specific examples, including one of our state's great clusterfucks – the redesigned Oklahoma license plate:
One of the most notable examples of a state agency using outside creative was when the Tourism and Recreation Department paid advertising firm Staplegun $1,350 in 2017 to design Oklahoma’s new license plate. Initially, the agency turned to VI to design the new plate, but the second company was brought in when state officials couldn’t come to a consensus on the initial designs.
Do you like how we throw all this money around with ad agencies yet we only spent $1,350 to design a state license plate that will be seen from California to New York island? Let's just hope Stitt doesn't change it anytime soon. Knowing our luck, his plate would feature an illustration of him, clad in a cowboy hat, riding the Oklahoma "Imagine That!" logo while tossing a lasso around a buffalo.
Also, quick aside – I'd like to wish a fond R.I.P. to Staplegun – the agency that designed the old plate for $1,350. I'm not sure what happened to them, but they threw fun parties, hired attractive employees (excluding management), and had a cool 20-story fire escape slide in their building that they'd let drunk bloggers coast down with hot blondes.
Anyway, what were we writing about again? Oh yeah, the state wasting $100,000,000 on local ad agencies.
"But Patrick! The state didn't 'waste' the money! These agencies provided valuable services during a global crisis and were paid fairly for it."
That's a fair point. The Oklahoman took a dive down that path and there's some truth to the angle. I just wish we were getting cool stuff like this...
As opposed to stuff like this...
Anyway, I guess I should wrap up this article and move yesterday's content behind our membership paywall in hopes that a few ad industry folks will sign up for a $5 membership. You can read more about this over at The "new and improved" Oklahoman.
Stay with The Lost Ogle. We'll keep you advised.
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