Marketing firms
beat HVCB on
creativity, quality

An analysis of the oral presentation
scores for companies pursuing Hawaii's
tourism marketing contracts reveals
comparative strengths and weaknesses

When Hawaii Visitors & Convention Bureau officials made their formal presentation last June to keep the state's lucrative tourism marketing contract, their winning competitors got higher marks for creativity and quality of their plans, according to a Star-Bulletin computer-assisted analysis.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 as lowest and 10 as highest, the bureau got an average 4.3 score for creativity in its marketing proposal for Japan. That was the judgment of a state panel that ultimately agreed to award the bureau's Japanese marketing job to Dentsu Inc., Japan's largest advertising agency. The four-year pact, which began this month, is worth $7.3 million in 2004.

The 10 judges gave Dentsu average 9.3 for creativity in its oral presentation.

An analysis of the scoring sheets from the presentations sheds light on the Hawaii Tourism Authority's unprecedented July decision to break up the state's tourism marketing contracts. The move dropped the bureau from marketing Hawaii as a tourism destination to international leisure travelers for the first time.

At the time, the bureau was in damage control over a negative state audit, though the state authority said the audit wasn't the reason for selecting other marketing companies. The Star-Bulletin analysis shows the bureau was bested in specific criteria by its competitors.

For quality, thoroughness, clarity and completeness of its work plan, the bureau got an average 4.6 in its Japan marketing presentation. Dentsu got 8.1.

The bureau beat Dentsu when it came to experience in destination marketing, with the HVCB's 8.4 to Dentsu's 5.9, and in knowledge of Hawaii as a product, with 8.1 to Dentsu's 6.8. But the total scores of both organizations for their oral presentations, weighted by 12 criteria, had Dentsu leading the bureau with 7.1 to 6.2.

The Star-Bulletin acquired the scoring data by issuing a formal open-records request to the state tourism authority. Some scores were left blank and those were not counted in the analysis.

The bureau also lost contracts to market to other Asian countries, which went to Marketing Garden Ltd. of Japan, worth $950,000 this year; to Europe, which went to the Mangum Group, $768,000; and to Oceania, which went to the Walshe Group of New Zealand, $600,000.

Marketing Garden and Mangum had higher total weighted scores than the bureau for their oral presentations.

Marketing Garden got an average 9 for the quality and thoroughness of its work plan. The bureau got a 6.2. Marketing Garden got an 8.2 for creativity. The bureau got a 5.8.

Both organizations got 9+ scores for experience in destination marketing, but the bureau got a 6.7 for knowledge of the market area, while Marketing Garden got a 9.

Only the Walshe Group had a lower total score than the bureau, although that was an instance where four of the 10 judges did not grade the bureau's presentation. Walshe had a weighted average score of 7.1; the bureau had 8.6.

The scoring sheets were just one method that the state used to deliberate the bids, but the scores show specific areas where the bureau faltered against competition. Previously, the century-old bureau had always had the state contract to market Hawaii to all visitors. The HTA was created in 1998 and set up a competitive bidding process.

The bidders, in making their presentations, were judged by a marketing committee of the HTA's board in conjunction with a private industry advisory committee and the HTA's tourism marketing director, Frank Haas. The HTA board members present were Sharon Weiner, Lorrie Lee Stone, John Toner and Kyoko Kimura. The private industry advisers were Pearl Imada Iboshi, the state government's chief economist; Gary Hogan, of the Hogan family; Brian DiMartino, president of the 21st Century Group; consultant John Votsis; and Leon Yoshida, executive director of the Honolulu Festival Foundation.

Ultimately, the HTA board voted in favor of the group's recommendation to split up the tourism marketing contract.

The bureau, having lost the job to market Hawaii to international visitor markets, won a contract to market the islands to North America and to business travelers, worth $24.2 million this year.

Other marketing organizations made presentations to the HTA last year but did not win contracts. One of them was the Travel & Business Consortium Hawaii, a newly created local for-profit group made up of Ogilvy & Mather, Becker Communications, Millward Brown USA and ISM, which was HVCB's only competitor to market Hawaii to every geographic market of the world.

Other organizations that lost in bids for particular geographic regions were Asatsu-DK Inc. of Japan, Tiger Oak Publications of Minnesota, Loomis Inc. of Honolulu and GCI Group in Chicago.

The judges also scored the bidders for their written proposals, and generally gave scores consistent with the scores for the oral presentations.

Calls left with judges and past and present representatives of the HVCB were not returned.



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